At an alumni meeting recently, a friend of mine told me about his greatest problem. He is the pastor of a large church in Los Angeles and, in addition to the regular weekly services, teaches five Bible-study groups. “I need at least twenty-five new illustrations each week just to stay afloat!” he confided.

Most pastors are dogged by the question, Where can I find timely, relevant illustrations? Books of illustrations are of little help. Their material is often dated, and at best they yield only one or two really usable stories.

But there are other more productive sources. Books in local college or public libraries contain a limitless supply of useful illustrative material. All we need to know is how to use these reference tools. Then, by setting aside time each week, we can draw what we need from these inexhaustible reservoirs of information. A little reflection on this factual data and we have our illustrations.

For a good source of current information, the New York Times Index is the place to look.

I will deal here with only two of these basic sources of material, the New York Times Index and Public Affairs Information Service (PAIS). Those desiring additional ideas might consult pages 253–56 of my book, The Minister’s Library (Baker, 1974), and note in particular how to use such works as The Annual Register of World Events and Facts on File. And those who need illustrative information for special occasions can read up on how to use The Book of Days, Famous First Facts, and other reference works dealing with the origin of the many events scattered throughout our calendar.

I use the New York Times Index for up-to-date, authoritative illustrations whenever I am preparing a sermon, getting ready to teach a Bible-study group, or ...

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