Finding and Filing Illustrations


As I’ve thought more about the quote I referred to yesterday, I’ve remembered more of it: A good sermon illustration is a PICTURE that becomes a WINDOW that becomes a MIRROR.

You paint a word-picture, it illumines the truth of the sermon, and it becomes an application tool that allows the hearers to see themselves.

Some of those illustrations come from one’s own experience. Paul was sometimes downright autobiographical in his sermons and letters. Sometimes we can also appropriately tell stories of others who have crossed our paths.

And then there are the books we read. Many of my illustrations come from non-fiction literature. I seldom read a biography, for example, without finding a sermon illustration, or a leadership book, or a book on current events. I read with pen in hand, and when I find such a story I mark it at the top of the page. When I’ve finished the book, I simply thumb back through it and index those stories in a set of files that I’ve kept for years.

When I’m preparing my sermon, I look at my files and find a story that I’ve noted in my reading. There are many ways of doing it, but it’s a necessary habit. Few of us have an encyclopedic mind. We have to index, or else many of our best stories will be lost to the memory.

Among my favorite biographies:

The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Visions of Glory

Truman by David McCullough

Luther: Biography of a Reformer by Frederick Nohl

Behind the Ranges: The Life-Changing Story of J. O. Fraser

You’ll find enough stories in these books to illustrate dozens of sermons!