“Fiction is the Art of Telling the Truth by Lying”

Tuesday is for Preaching

A while back I wrote a post that observed that many church planters seem to be spending more time trying to be funny than they are in actually thinking hard about the meaning of the text. It raised the whole issue of the purpose of illustrations. With that in mind, here are some questions and tips related to when, when not and how to illustrate in your messages.

“Fiction is the art of telling the truth by lying”

I.    The danger of going to far: (What kind of
illustrations hinder rather than the help transfer
of truth)

  • Illustration obscures the point by being …
  1. too long –save long illustrations for closing a message, but make them worth the length
  2. too obscure –more than 20 seconds of set up is too much
  3. inappropriate –language, subject matter, 
  4. poorly told –tell what is necessary and leave everything else out
  5. too funny –too funny or too sad both can obscure the point you are trying to make
  6. too sad
  7. too self-glorifying –your audience will see right through you
  8. too self-pitying –your audience will dismiss you

II.   The danger of not going far enough: (What are the consequences of using illustrations that are

  • They don’t work because …
  1. they are misplaced –too big for the point, too small for the message
  2. they are too short 
  3. don’t relate (good story but forced into the message)
  4. need explanation themselves 
  5. the audience grows weary with their detail

III.  Danger in not going at all:

  1. boring, monochromatic messages  —same could be said about tone
  2. audience grows weary of cognitive overload
  3. demotivates the audience with regard to application
  4. audience never gets a picture of the truth.
  5. “Images and figures speech give more life and force to speech because they join the realm of experience to fact.” (Haddon H. Robinson, Biblical Preaching, p. 69)

IV.  What does a good illustration do?

  1. It makes truth “seeable”
  2. It clarifies the point
  3. It provides an isle of refuge for the audience to think about the point.
  4. It allows the speaker to demonstrate personal understanding and application of the truth in his own life.
  5. It makes repetition possible without wearying the ear.

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