Below is a guest post from my friend Michael. He identifies sources of great sermon illustrations. These apply to business presentations and writing as well.
As a preacher, I'm always looking for great sermon illustrations. So I thought I would send you a list of some of the top secret places I find sermon illustrations. After all, there shouldn't be trade secrets in the Kingdom of God.
Here are seven go-to places for sermon illustrations.
1. Your past.
You may not realize it, but your life is full of wonderful stories that can illustrate great Biblical truth. Here is a great exercise to help you remember great stories from your past. Just take out a sheet of paper and start writing down your oldest memories. Go back to grade school and begin mind-mapping. Write down things you remember from your room, your elementary school, your friends, Christmas, family vacations.
2. Your family.
If you have kids, you have living breathing sermon illustrations. But be careful! As they get older, they may resent being sermon content. You might need to get the permission before telling a story about them in church.
John Maxwell says leaders are readers. But good storytellers are also readers. Recently, I read a book about the financial collapse of countries around the world. There were two or three great stories that I pulled from that book, including one about the fall of the Icelandic economy. That may sound like a bore to you, but put in context, it can illustrate a powerful truth about inflated values of temporary things.
Movies are modern day parables. Not only could you use the actual events of a movie to make points in your messages, you could learn how stories are told.
5. Current events.
The theologian Karl Barth is known to have frequently commented that people should hold the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. These days, fewer and fewer people stay updated on current events via the newspaper. Make sure you have a few trusted sources to stay current on world events. Here's one of my favorites: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/good-news/
Reading history is traveling through time, and you can tell great stories if you’re familiar with historical events. Consider this story.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, a Swedish businessman sat down to a traditional Swedish breakfast of kippers, eggs and bacon. As he sipped his coffee, he began to look through the morning newspaper. There he was...on the front page. Of course, he was surprised, but he was even more surprised to realize that it was obituary.
The newspaper had confused him with his brother, who died in the East Indies. As he read the article, his surprise turned to disgust. He read phrases like “Merchant of munitions,” “Dealer of Destruction,” and “Peddler of Death” – all about him!
That very day, he made a decision. He got in his carriage, traveled to an office, and wrote a brand new will – a document that established the Nobel Peace Foundation.
Today, the Nobel Peace Foundation gives out the Nobel Peace Prize, widely regarded as the most prestigious award available in the fields of literature, medicine, physics, chemistry, peace and economics
7. Children’s books.
One of my favorite sermon illustrations comes from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, one of the books in the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. In one section, the main character is turned into a dragon because he put on an enchanted gold bracelet. No matter how much he scratches and claws at his arm, he can’t get the bracelet off. Aslan the Lion, who symbolizes Jesus throughout the series, appears and tears away layers of scales with his sharp claws. Only Aslan could return Eustice to a boy. That story beautifully illustrates sanctification, a change process that can only truly come from Jesus.
Saving and Filing Sermon Illustrations
You might find it helpful to create a system for saving and clipping potential sermon illustrations. You could write them in a notebook or save them to a document on your computer.
Many people use a free tool called Evernote to save sermon illustrations. In fact, this is the tool we recommend. Evernote allows you to quickly save text, images and documents and sync your notes across multiple devices. When you see a story you want to save, you can simply clip it into Evernote.
Evernote let’s you create folders and add tags to notes, so it’s really easy to save and archive potential illustrations. The search feature is very powerful.
Here's a blog post I did about how I use Evernote to save and search for everything.
Those are seven of my favorite sources for sermon illustrations. I hope this gets you thinking. If you've got any secret weapons, hit reply and let me know.