5 Pitfalls to Avoid in Sermon Illustrations

Michael Kruger | June 24, 2015


Everyone loves a good story. They can be powerful, illuminating, inspiring, and, most of all, memorable. And they can really enhance the effectiveness of a sermon. No doubt some of our favorite sermons are so precisely because of their illustrations or stories.

History bears out this observation. Not only was Jesus himself the master storyteller (and illustrator), but some of the most famous sermons in history have contained them. One only needs to think of Jonathan Edwards’s sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Edwards effectively compared the precarious situation of sinners dangling over the fires of hell to the way spiders dangle by the thinnest of webs.

But illustrations do not always turn out the way we intended. Indeed, sometimes illustrations can do more harm than good. Here are five major illustration pitfalls to avoid.

1. Offering an illustration too soon.

When it comes to illustrations, perhaps the number one mistake is offering one before the exegetical or theological point has really been explained or adequately developed. Remember, illustrations are designed to illuminate something else. But they are unable to do so if the something else has never been sufficiently explored.

Too many pastors use illustrations as a substitute for exegesis, rather than as something that illumines or applies their


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