Serve it up fresh

When I illustrate, I’m looking for echoes of plausibility, and they are most plausible when they are fresh.


I used to keep a large ring binder, with a card index system, of quotes, stories and illustrations.  I’d picked the system up from a senior pastor at some point, and it worked. Then one day, I just binned it. It was cumbersome and time consuming, but that wasn’t why I threw it away.  I could do the same thing today with Evernote if I chose. But I don’t.

No, I chucked it because it was stale, and it didn’t need to be.  Every item in that file was gathering dust and whiskers by the day, but the bible I was reading kept being proved true by the way people behaved on that day’s news.

The key principle is this: if the bible is true, then it will be ringingly true today.  That’s because creation and salvation both find their origin in the same, consistent God, even though creation is subject to the fall and salvation isn’t.  Everyone finds themselves at home in the ‘creation’ category, Christians find themselves at home in both, choosing salvation when forced to decide.  But Salvation and Creation are not enemy categories. They rhyme, if you like.

Salvation and Creation are not enemy categories. They rhyme.

So you’ll be able to illustrate the truths of a biblical issue, if you need to, from what’s going on today.

So here’s my challenge.

I do believe in illustrating from outside the bible (I know that gets me into trouble with some of my readers) and it’s not because I don’t sign up for a particular doctrine or other.  No, it’s because I’m looking for echoes of plausibility – those elusive ‘rhymes’ – and they are the most plausible when they are fresh.

So this week, as you prep your sermon, chuck out every illustration and quotation that you could have used last week.

Serve it up hot, and with the smell of fresh coffee.


2 comments on “Serve it up fresh”

  1. Chris, I agree. Over the years I’ve seen books of illustrations (the missing subtitle might be ‘for the unimaginative preacher’) but with a few exceptions found them stale. There is so much happening in the world around us that we can use.

    I remember your advice from many years ago along the lines of ‘never read a book without pencil and notebook handy’. Perhaps we could expand it to ‘Never go through life without…’ Although nowadays I tend to use an app on my phone if I see something that inspires an illustration for something I’m going to be speaking about.

    The current illustration concept is one advocated in Bruce Mawhinney’s book Preaching with Freshness, which is a good motivator for anyone feeling their preaching is getting bit stale.

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