Sermon illustrations, like money, can be hoarded, squandered, or invested. The wise preacher tries to invest illustrations in each sermon, making a productive piece that is remembered and reflected upon by the congregation all week long. Without telling illustrations even the meatiest text can fall flat.

The ability to invest illustrations is not a gift that some preachers just happen to have; it is a developed skill. Unfortunately, many preachers never develop it.

There is the preacher who buries each good story or illustration deep in his files. He rationalizes, “I’m waiting for just the right sermon to use this good one.” He hoards his choice illustrations as if he thinks the Lord will never give him any more. Week after week, his sermons fall short of their potential while he exhausts himself trying to make an exciting message out of something that usually doesn’t even excite him.

Another preacher, having used a choice illustration with good results, will use it over and over again until the parishioners can quote it as well as he can. People don’t want to hear the same tired stories. Even if the minister has labored forty hours in preparing his sermon, the old illustrations give the impression that he just threw together something familiar and easy late Saturday night.

Still others, hearing a good story or finding an interesting illustration, are so eager to use it that they tell it the very next Sunday regardless of the subject of the sermon that day. This squandered story, only loosely tied to its context, loses its force.

Bright, memorable, apt illustrations that help package a sermon for easy recollection by the parishioner are the dream of every preacher. But most of us find ourselves lamenting, “I can’t invest what ...

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