Having Trouble Finding a Good Sermon Illustration?


I’m sure you’ve been there. You feel pretty good about your sermon but it’s missing a solid story or illustration. You have trolled the internet and the only thing you can find are cheesy or canned illustrations. The good ones you have already used or they have been worn out by other pastors. You think about stories from your own life and…nothing. Ever been there?

The illustrations below might be the answer to your prayers. I understand the weekly toil of trying to find powerful and effective sermon illustrations. I share the following illustrations with the hope that you can use one or more of them and finally put your sermon (and maybe yourself) to bed. I have used these in my recent sermons and found them to be very effective.

Look for more blogs on sermon illustrations in future postings. When I collect a handful of stories and illustrations that I believe might be useful I will share them.

Happy preaching!

Going Deeper with God

Related sermon topics/themes: Stewardship, Discipleship, Commitment, Faithfulness

I remember a story Bill Self would often tell about going fishing in Florida. Bill really was not much of a fisherman, but a member of his church invited him to go tarpon fishing. His friend said they would take his private jet. Bill had never been in a private jet before so he said, “Why not?”

They got set up on a charter and went way out into the ocean. Before long Bill had caught one big tarpon. He was feisty thing and Bill held on to it as long as he could. Finally, the captain had to help him reel it in so he would not throw away the rod. They reeled it in and it was huge. Everyone needled Bill and said that only a first time fisherman would catch a tarpon that huge!

When they came into port a wise old fisherman saw the tarpon and said, “That’s a championship fish!” Bill said proudly, “I know.” Then the man said, “You only catch a fish like that by going to the deepest parts of the bay.”

Bill was so proud of that fish, but he had to hang it on the wall of his basement because his wife would not have it upstairs!

Well, that old fisherman was right on many levels. You never catch anything worth having in the shallows. Anything worth having must be found at the deep end.

(I used this story in a sermon about Ezekiel’s vision of the Temple when God asked him to go into deeper waters – Ezekiel 47:3-5. In the same sermon I also referenced the text in Luke when Jesus tells Simon to go out into deep water to catch fish – Luke 5:4-7).

Parking on Someone Else’s Nickel

Related sermon topic/themes: Stewardship, Giving, Obedience,  

A friend of mine had a relative visiting him in Florida. It was January, and if you live in Florida in January you discover friends and relatives you never knew you had!

Well my friend and his relative were driving around the downtown area of the city looking for a parking spot. They passed a bunch of good spots, but the relative just kept on driving. My friend said, “What’s the deal? You’ve passed a bunch of good parking spots.” The relative replied, “I’m looking for a parking meter that still has money on it.”

This is what many church members are doing: parking on someone else’s nickel. They are enjoying the fruits of the church without paying for it. They are receiving the benefits of the church’s ministries, programs, worship, and air conditioning and letting other people pay for it.

Folks, if you don’t tithe and give, something God wants done will not get done. The Church is God’s chosen vessel in this word. We are the only bank account God has.

Preacher as Coach

Related sermon topic/themes: Commitment, Challenge, Capital Campaign, Stewardship Campaign

Vince Lombardi said, “A coach is someone who gets people to do what they don’t want to do so they can be what they’ve always wanted to be.” In many ways that describes the role of a preacher, especially during a stewardship campaign!

Why Christianity?

Relates sermon topic/themes: World Religions, Apologetics, Christianity, Skepticism, The Incarnation, Advent

I recall being invited to speak to a college class some time ago at my alma mater, Florida Southern. The class was doing a sociological study of religion and they wanted a Protestant minister to come speak and answer questions. After my “talk” they peppered me with all kinds of questions about church administration, worship, preaching, and pastoral care.

At the end of the class as we were wrapping up, a young lady in the back of the classroom raised her hand and said urgently, “I have a question!” When I called on her she asked pointedly, “Why are you a Christian? I mean, I’m taking this class on world religions and there are so many beautiful religions. What makes Christianity so special?” The girl next to her chimed in and said, “Yeah, don’t all religions lead to the same place?”

If someone were to ask you that question, how would you respond? My response was, “I am a Christian because the ‘Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ All religions have great truth and beauty, but the way I see it religion is reaching for God; Christianity is God reaching for us.”

(Obviously I used this illustration in an Advent sermon on John 1:14).

Trust God’s Perspective, Not Your Own

Related sermon topics/themes: Faith, Trust, God’s Providence

Henry Blackaby reminds us to never make judgments about God and our faith in the middle of our circumstances. We will always get a distorted view of God that way. Never assume your perspective is the right one. Trust God’s perspective instead of your own because your pain is not the end of your story. Trust God with the rest of your story! As someone said, “The worst thing is never the last thing.”

I love the movie The Karate Kid (the original). It is about a kid named Daniel who moves into a new town and gets bullied and beaten up by a bunch of kids who are good at Karate. Daniel finds a Karate master and asks him to teach him to defend himself. His name is Mr. Miyagi.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Daniel shows up at Mr. Miyagi’s house for his first day of training. He finds buckets, wax, soap and sponges next to a bunch of cars. Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel to wash and wax a car. He shows him a particular way to do it, waxing on with one hand circling away from him and waxing off with the other hand circling away from him – “Wax on. Wax off.”

Daniel finishes the car, and it is beautiful and shiny. Mr. Miyagi’s then points to five or six other cars and says, “Now, do the rest of the cars.”

When Daniel finishes the cars, Mr. Miyagi then tells him to paint a fence. He gives him brushes and paint and shows him a particular way to paint the fence, painting up with the top of his wrist leading and painting down with the bottom of his wrist leading.

Daniel finishes the fence and then Mr. Miyagi points to the rest of the backyard fence and says, “Now paint all of it!”

When Daniel finishes the fence, it is evening time. He is exhausted. Mr. Miyagi tells him to show up the next day and he will have more chores for him. Daniel loses his temper and tells Mr. Miyagi that he has just been his slave and he is quitting. Mr. Miyagi calls Daniel back and asks him to show him “wax on, wax off” and “paint the fence.” Then Mr. Miyagi throws punches and kicks at Daniel and he blocks all of them with the movements he has learned through repetition! Little did Daniel know that there was a purpose to all those chores!

Daniel had no idea what he was being prepared for. He thought he was just doing Mr. Miyagi’s dirty work. That was his perspective, but it wasn’t Mr. Miyagi’s perspective. Instead, Daniel was being prepared to defend himself and reach his goals.

Isaiah says that God’s ways are higher than our ways; God’s thoughts are greater than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).

The Perfect Church

Related sermon topics/themes: Hypocrisy, Church Shopping, The Church, Salvation, Jesus

Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard someone say, “I don’t go to church because it is filled with a bunch of hypocrites!” Newsflash: The church is made up of imperfect people because “the church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” There is no such thing as the perfect church. If only perfect people were allowed in church, no one would be here! Someone once said that refusing to go to church because of too many hypocrites is like refusing to go to the gym because there are too many people there who are out of shape.

I often find “church shoppers” who are searching for the perfect church. My response is always the same. I always give them the old line by Bill Self: “There is no such thing as the perfect church. But if you find the perfect church and join it, it will not be perfect anymore!”

Why did Jesus come? Think about it. Jesus did not come for perfect people. He came for imperfect people. You don’t need a bath if you are clean. Jesus said he came to seek and save the lost – to bring healing and wholeness to broken people. The church is not perfect, but we know the one who is perfect and he is working in our lives.

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