I’m surprised sometimes when people share with me about the sermons they remember. It’s never the deep theological points I try to make, or the alliterated 3 points of a sermon. It’s always a story. Stories are powerful and I think we don’t use them enough in the church today. When we take a story and then integrate it and apply it in a message, we grab people’s attention and make a connection. I think back to most of the preaching I have heard over the last 15 years and I remember very few preachers who effectively used stories. I’m not talking about 1 minute “illustrations”, but real powerful stories, analogies, and parables.
Jesus was a master at doing this. He was able to weave stories into everyday life to communicate great truth. It sometimes drives me crazy to see seminaries and pastors say that expository preaching is the only way to preach. Sometimes I love to take a single passage and dive deep and explore the truths of just that passage. But Jesus didn’t preach expository sermons. Just read through the sermon on the mount. It was topical, it was fast moving, and it cut to the heart of the matter. He took multiple Old Testament passages and refocused the meaning behind them. But Jesus’ stories used things that people were familiar with, and people listened, and they were moved to make a decision.
Some people may think I’m a little crazy to talk about constipated rhinos, or show a youtube video about lions, crocodiles, and buffalos, or show a heart-wrenching video about 99 balloons:
but I know the power of a story. And people will be reminded of the truth of the Bible in everyday life when they make the connection between the story and their life.
Just one word of caution, don’t share stories and illustrations from 100 years ago. I know it is tempting to use a funny story about dead British people. I know they worked great for D.L. Moody and Spurgeon, but we have to use stories that people can relate to. Let’s make the connection to the culture we live in. A story that is powerful here in southwest Virginia would fall flat in Atlanta or D.C. because our culture is so different. Let’s connect stories to The Story. That’s what Jesus did, and that is my goal as well.