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The Net Pastor's Journal, Eng Ed, Issue 31 Spring 2019

Spring 2019 Edition

A ministry of…

Author: Dr. Roger Pascoe, President,
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 519-620-2375

Part I: Strengthening Expository Preaching

“Strengthening Illustrations”

A. Why Illustrate?

1. Because The Bible Is Full Of Illustrations

Since God has chosen to communicate a large portion of his Word to us in stories, surely this should guide preachers in their communication of the Word. God undoubtedly used stories to communicate his truth because they are a powerful medium to which human beings respond and which they understand. To not use stories in preaching is to miss a significant communications methodology that God has used and endorsed, and to fail to communicate the truth in relevant, illuminative ways.

2. Because Illustrations Go Hand-In-Hand With “Explanation” And “Application”

Illustrations help us explain and apply the truth in relevant, clear, understandable ways. Thus, when you preach truth in its application to real life situations, you should be able to illustrate it!

Some preachers think that you leave the application of the Word to the Holy Spirit alone to make it clear and relevant to life. While it is true that only the Holy Spirit can make the Word so clear and convicting that a person’s life is changed, nonetheless let’s not forget that the Holy Spirit uses the medium of preaching to make the Word relevant and applicable to life and He has given us the biblical precedent of illustrations to make those applications live.

We must not only tell our people what to do, but give examples of how to do it, or how someone else’s life was impacted through the Word.

3. Because Illustrations Help Overcome The “So What?” Hump

Illustrations get the preacher past the threshold of the audience’s attention and into their minds, hearts, wills, and consciences. Illustrations can often show a listener why they need this sermon; why it applies to them.

Illustrations can be a very helpful tool in getting past people’s “what-does-this-have-to-do-with me” objections because they are non-threatening, non-adversarial. They do not incite people’s objections. They are arms length, third party examples.

B. Some Purposes And Types Of Illustrations

1. Some Purposes Of Illustrations

a) To clarify the truth

b) To simplify the truth

c) To picture the truth

d) To concretize the truth (i.e. make the truth tangible, visible, real)

e) To emphasize the truth

f) To provide additional authority for the message

g) To express the truth in a different way

2. Some Types And Sources Of Illustrations

a) Biblical narratives, statements, and proverbs often make the best illustrations.

But a word of warning: Be careful in using Bible stories as illustrations. Bible stories were given to make a point, not to supply a source of illustrations for subsequent preachers. While it is alright to use biblical stories to illustrate a point, generally it is better to quote the Bible for its authority and teaching rather than to illustrate a point (though I would not be dogmatic on this).

b) Church history, biography, testimony.

c) Secular history, literature, information.

d) Allegory, parable, fable, story.

e) Anecdote, quotation, statistics.

f) Personal experience, contemporary testimony. The best illustrations are often a “slice-of-life” - an experience, whether yours or someone else’s. These experiences make good illustrations because…

  • everyone can identify with them
  • they are “real”
  • they are relevant and contemporary
  • they need no interpretation to apply to people’s lives

“Slice-of-life” illustrations require that you be observant about…

  • people’s hurts, wants, needs, relationships, occupations, hardships
  • contemporary news items that speak to people’s hearts and consciences
  • what people say, think, and do
  • how people speak, think, act, and react
  • how you react, think, speak, and act (so that you identify with others within yourself). Without always speaking about yourself, typically, what happens to you, and how you act is representative of almost everyone else.

g) Literary devices such as figures of speech (similes, metaphors, contrasts and comparisons), word pictures, word plays.

h) Object lessons like visual aids and presentations.

i) Contemporary news, slogans, statements, events. You can find these sources of illustrations as you read newspapers and magazines, or listen to the radio or TV – secular broadcast media know more than anyone else what people want, where they hurt, how they live.

j) General life observations, experiences.

k) Examples from nature – e.g. a moth changing into a butterfly might be an illustration of the transformation of the Christian.

C. The Placement Of Illustrations

1. Where To Place Them In The Flow Of The Sermon

Decide where in your sermon you would get the most benefit from an illustration and / or where it is most needed. You don’t need illustrations for every point of your sermon.

The strategic location of illustrations has much more impact than how many you have.

However, there are some obvious places where you need an illustration:

a) The introduction. A well-chosen illustration gets attention, raises interest, introduces the subject, and identifies the need.

b) Major points. I don’t feel obligated to have an illustration for every main point. In fact that may not be possible or desirable or necessary. But somewhere in the body of your sermon you need to illustrate what you are speaking on, if for no other reason than to give a break from the teaching of the sermon - i.e. to give mental relief for the audience.

c) The conclusion. If you can find a suitable illustration for the conclusion it will make it more powerful and more memorable. Again, this may not always be possible, desirable, or necessary.

Here are some questions to help you think through the placement, number, and type of illustrations [These question derived from Ramesh Richard, Preparing Expository Sermons (Baker), 126]:

a) Is an illustration necessary to clarify or explain a point or section of the sermon?

b) Would an illustration answer the audience’s implicit questions: “how, why, when”?

c) Would an illustration make the point more credible, believable, acceptable?

d) What kind of illustration would introduce the audience to the possible implications and applications of the point?

2. How To Place Them In The Flow Of The Sermon

The illustration has more connectedness and impact when you move in the following order:

a) Make the point.

b) Transition to the illustration. It is most helpful to smooth into your illustration by means of a transitionary statement – such as: “I discovered the reality of this recently when…” or some such statement.

c) Illustrate the point.

d) Possibly, transition to the audience by applying it, or exhorting them to respond to the illustration, although this is not necessary.

e) Restate the point or carry on with the development of the point, or transition to the next point.

D. Twenty Do’s And Don’ts Of Illustrations

1. Don’t use the same type of illustration all the time

E.g. sports which generally appeal mainly to men and only some men.

2. Don’t use your own family as illustrations

As a general rule, leave your family out of your sermons . They have enough exposure as it is. Though they will generally give you their permission to use a personal illustration, they often don’t think about the consequences or implications, so leave them out.

3. Don’t use anyone in your congregation, unless it is to compliment them and only then with their permission.

4. Don’t ever use anything confidential, even if it is couched in non-personal language. The person will see himself or herself in the story and you will lost your credibility with that person.

5. Always give brief credit for your sources

You lose impact if citing the source takes away from attention to the illustration or becomes boring. Generally, I record in my sermon notes the details of the source, but in preaching I only give the author’s name or the name of the source (e.g. newspaper).

If you don’t know the source (or, if you don’t want to spell it out), simply say: “Someone said” or “I read somewhere”, so that you give credit where it is due and you don’t try to make it look like your own.

Illustrations in the public domain generally need no acknowledgement as to their source.

6. Don’t use the same illustration twice with the same audience

You run the risk of boring your audience if you repeat illustrations.

7. Don’t use an illustration that dominates the point it illustrates

Make sure every illustration serves the truth and doesn’t dominate it. Explanation and application of the truth are the central focus of our preaching – that is what the Holy Spirit can take and use to change lives. We are preachers first and foremost, not story-tellers

You want people to remember the truth through the illustration. They will certainly remember illustrations; just make sure they remember what they illustrate.

8. Don’t twist an illustration to make it fit just because it is a good illustration

Good illustrations are powerful and preachers have the tendency to want to use them. This leads to the tendency to use them incorrectly and inappropriately. It is one thing to adjust an illustration of a general nature (like “the story of the little boy who…”) to fit the story, but no illustration should be twisted to fit your sermon.

9. Learn to communicate illustrations well

This is a learned art. Watch the reaction of your audience to determine its effect.

10. Place your illustrations strategically for the most impact

The most strategic placements are at the beginning and the end – at the beginning to generate attention; at the end to drive the point home and cause them to remember what you said.

11. Keep your illustrations short

Long illustrations tend to lose focus on what is being illustrated. Long illustrations have to be right the first time (no second chance – once you’re into it you’re into it) and have the intended impact or else you lose your audience, you come out looking bad, and you waste valuable time.

On the other hand, if a short illustration doesn’t have the impact you want, you can move on without any great embarrassment or loss of time. Also, short illustrations are easier to remember and easier to deliver without notes. Illustrations delivered without notes have the greatest impact.

12. Make sure your illustrations are accurate in detail and authorship

If you are not accurate, you lose credibility. Historical data must be accurate. Literary quotations (e.g. poems) must be accurate. Statistical data must be accurate.

13. Make sure your illustrations suit your audience

Take into account cultural issues like figures of speech, social practices, historical relevance, humour etc. This becomes very important when speaking to audiences in a different culture than your own (e.g. overseas).

Universal illustrations have to do with life’s experiences, nature, history, and things like that.

14. Don’t use too many illustrations

If you load your sermon with illustrations your audience will get tired of them and they will conclude that you did not prepare well. At most, an illustration for each major point is usually enough.

15. Don’t use illustrations that are not credible

Test every illustration: “Is this likely…believable…logical…realistic?” If not, don’t use it (even if it’s true) or you will destroy your credibility.

16. Be very careful with the use of humor

Humour should only be used if it is natural – i.e. not jokes! If an illustration or experience is funny and it suits your biblical topic, then use it. That’s different from a joke, which is a made-up scenario. Remember, funny incidents that the audience doesn’t find funny only detract from the effectiveness of your message, so be careful. Don’t use any humour that could be construed as off color or inappropriate (such as anything that could be construed as a racial slur).

17. Don’t refer to yourself repeatedly

People usually love their pastor but enough is enough. They want to hear more than just what happened in your life (when you were young, as you grew up, incidents in you previous church etc.). I would recommend that you stay away from references to your previous church. If you talk about it, then your audience can legitimately conclude that you will talk about them to others as well. It’s not professional nor necessary nor appropriate.

18. Don’t be too graphic

We are there to draw attention to God and his truth not to graphic illustrations. Generally, graphic language or illustrations turn people off.

19. Don’t use worn out illustrations

Stories that every preacher tells are a no-no. Be original. That takes work and research, but it’s worth it.

20. Make sure your illustrations illustrate the point

Sometimes you can listen to a preacher’s illustration and say: “What did that have to do with the subject?” Like humour, an illustration must be intuitively obvious as to what it means and how it illustrates and connects with the point you are trying to make. You should not have to explain it or, again like humour, it falls flat.

Part II. Transformational Leadership

“The Profile of a Christian Leader”

What does a Christian leader look like? Who is he in his person, character, abilities, attitudes, lifestyle, spirituality etc.? Clearly, the starting point is the spiritual qualifications for a church leader set out in 1 Tim. 3:1-7 and Tit. 1:5-9. But this is only the starting point, it seems to me. This is by no means an exhaustive list, which, if a man meets, he is necessarily qualified to be a church leader. I don't think Paul intended this to be some sort of checklist that we use without any other standards or requirements. This list says nothing about character traits like humility, courage, or wisdom, but surely these are also important aspects of a church leader’s profile. Nor does it say anything about the gift of leadership (Rom. 12:8), but surely an elder must be gifted as a leader.

So, what other aspects of character and personality or ability do you think a church leader must have? I think, apart from Paul’s criteria in 1 Tim. 3, that there are embedded in Scripture certain inalienable character and personality traits that are necessary for church leaders. I think these are best understood by dividing them into three categories:

A. Those intangible character traits that enable them to consistently make good decisions.

B. Those personality traits that impact those they lead by inspiring them to follow and obey.

C. Those “success” traits that drive the leader to achieve results, such as self-discipline, perseverance, endurance.

A. Character Traits

These traits enable leaders to consistently make good decisions. The top five on my list are: wisdom, integrity, humility, courage, and vision.

1. Wisdom

Wisdom stands at the top of my list. This is the umbrella trait under which all the others are subsumed. The question is: “What is wisdom?” Here’s my formula: Wisdom = knowledge + experience + maturity.

a) Knowledge. Knowledge is our acquaintance with facts, truths, principles etc. Knowledge is connected with learning. Special knowledge comes from our specific areas of expertise and learning, whether academic or on-the-job.

b) Experience. You cannot be wise without experience. After all, wisdom is earned and learned through life experience. Life’s school of experiential adversity knocks wisdom into you.

While experience connotes “age”, some people gain experience faster than others by virtue of their exposure to life experiences and their openness to learning from those experiences, be it at home, school, work, or society.

You could probably say that experience is where we put knowledge to work, as in an apprenticeship. After all, isn't the entirety of life, to some degree, an apprenticeship?

c) Maturity. The apostle Paul wrote: “We speak wisdom among those who are mature (1 Cor. 2:6). What is maturity? Maturity is something that is hard to define but you know it when you see it. Or, to put it another way, you know immaturity when you see it.

Maturity is acting like an adult not a child - e.g. no temper tantrums when you don’t get your own way or when things go wrong. Controlling your emotions.

Physical maturity is easy to recognize. It occurs without us doing anything. We simply reach a stage where we stop growing, cutting teeth and we look like an adult.

Emotional and psychological maturity occurs at different times for different people. Some older people never reach maturity. At 60 or 70 years old, they may still be immature in their behaviour, reactions, attitudes, and speech, while some younger people may be quite mature in those areas.

Maturity has to do with self-control, choices, how we express emotions. It’s an awareness of who we are, how we relate to others.

Maturity has to do with enduring short-term pain in order to achieve long-term gain. Immature people don’t see things that way. They want immediate self-satisfaction.

Maturity is making your word your bond. Consistency. Dependability.

Sadly, wisdom is the one trait that seems to be so lacking in church leaders today. But that’s what our churches desperately need in leadership. Note the following:

  • Solomon did not ask God for riches but for wisdom (1 Kings 3:9).
  • Jesus grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom” (Lk. 2:40) ... and he increased in wisdom and stature (2:52).
  • The leaders of Acts 6 were seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:3).
  • The apostle Paul prays “… that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Col. 1:9).
  • Speaking of Christ, Paul says, In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3).
  • We are exhorted to walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time” (Col. 4:5).

Wise people usually consult others, evaluate self-performance, and engage in reflection. Wise people welcome challenging dialogue that stimulates their thinking and opinions. Wise people don't want “yes-men” around them, but people who have initiative and independent thinking.

2. Integrity

What is integrity? Integrity is sometimes defined as adherence to moral and ethical principles. Integrity is manifested in…

a) Impartiality. This means never making decisions to please people but to please God (Eph. 6:6-7; Col. 3:22-23). Doing what is right, regardless of the cost. This means never being caught in a conflict of interest. This means never favouring one person over another, regardless of who is involved. This may mean turning down someone’s kind intent so that you are not beholden to that person.

b) Transparency. Openness. No hidden agenda regardless of the consequences. This doesn’t mean that you tell everything you know necessarily (wisdom and confidentiality may dictate otherwise), but it does mean not hiding behind a veneer, being true to who you are.

c) Righteousness. Uprightness in one’s dealings.

d) Sincerity. Not being phoney. No ulterior motives. Not being hypocritical. Not putting on a pretense.

e) Honesty. Truthfulness, frankness. Freedom from deceit or guile.

f) Credibility. Acting in a way that people trust you and believe you.

g) Moral purity. This is part of personal integrity. “Pay close attention to yourself” (1 Tim. 4:16). Why? Because you cannot lead others to faith, or teach people the truth, or lead the people of God in worship, or intercede on behalf of others, unless your own life is upright and morally clean.

A Christian leader must have integrity. Your whole life must hold together – no gaps, no inconsistencies; just a unified whole.

3. Humility

What is humility? Humility is …

a) Meekness. Meekness is “not thinking more highly of yourself than you ought to think” (Rom. 12:3) – i.e. not arrogant. Meekness is “esteeming others better than yourself” (Phil. 2:3). Meekness is the attitude that says, “He must increase but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30). Meekness is the attitude that says, “I am the least of the apostles and do not deserve to be called an apostle” (1 Cor. 15:9; cf. Eph. 3:8; 1 Tim. 1:15).

b) Fallibility. Fallibility is knowing and admitting that you don’t know everything. You can and do make mistakes. You don’t have all the answers.

c) Gentleness. Not bullying others to get your own way.

d) Servanthood. Not a celebrity expecting adulation from others but a person who serves others.

e) Self-consciousness. The willingness to acknowledge your weaknesses as well as your strengths.

Humility is the opposite of pride. It’s easy to become proud in ministry, particularly if there are outward signs of success in worldly terms (e. g. increase in church attendance or a new church building). Preaching, in particular, can generate pride. People’s affirmation of your preaching can go to your head.

The minute we begin to think it has anything to do with us (our credit; our merit) we are in trouble. Remember: “God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5). “Humble yourself therefore under the mighty hand of God that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Pet. 5:6). When it’s time, He will exalt you – not yourself.

4. Courage

What is courage? Courage is not “in-your-face” boldness, not rudeness, not outspokenness. Rather, courage is doing what is right regardless of others’ opinions, despite opposition, consequences, criticism, failure, or discouragement. Courage is having a conviction as to a right course of action and carrying it out. Courage is standing for truth. Courage is confidence that, with God’s help, “we can do it”.

Remember: “God has not given us the spirit of fear…” (2 Tim. 1:7). Martin Luther, on his journey to Worms to face interrogation about his teachings, said: “You can expect from me everything, save fear or recantation. I shall not flee, much less recant.” That is courage.

Christian leadership isn’t easy. It takes courage.

It takes courage to make tough decisions - to do what is right regardless of the consequences.

Clear, good decision-making made in dependence on God is the hallmark of a good spiritual leader, like…

  • Abraham during the crisis of Sodom and the rescue of Lot (Gen. 14:14f.)
  • Moses when he decided to give up Egypt’s pleasures and power (Heb. 11:23-28)
  • Paul in the storm (Acts 27)

Every time you face a crossroad in decision-making, you will be an example of either courage or cowardice. David and Daniel were men of courage. Jonah and Gideon were men of cowardice.

It takes courage to deal with difficult situations - to face obstacles, attacks, personal criticism and opposition (from people; from Satan etc.). It takes courage to preach when you’ve been soundly criticized during the week (cf. Jer. 1:17-19). Criticism is one of the worst enemies to wear you down. It amplifies your insecurities, takes your eyes off the task at hand and onto yourself, depletes your energy and enthusiasm, makes you defensive, and isolates you.

That’s why negative, destructive criticism (judgementalism), I believe, is a tool of Satan. I believe in the biblical concepts of rebuke, exhortation, and confrontation (2 Tim. 4:2), but destructive criticism has no place among the people of God. Criticism is usually negative, destructive – it’s about what people don’t want or don’t like, not about what is honouring to God or beneficial to his people. Criticism can distort your view of ministry and of the people you minister to.

It takes courage to persevere in times of spiritual discouragement - to stay the course when discouragement sets in, when you think you’re a failure, when you work hard but it seems no one is listening or responding.

Remember: Three times God told Joshua to be strong and of good courage. Why? Because he knew the temptations and tests that Joshua would face might be discouraging to him and in which he might be tempted to take the easy way out.

5. Vision

What is vision? Vision is not a “head-in-the-clouds” dream world; it’s not your own aspirations. Vision is …

a) Seeing what’s possible.

b) “Seeing the invisible” as Moses did (Heb. 11:27) and the patriarchs, who saw the promises afar off, even though they themselves did not receive them (Heb. 11:13).

c) Setting realistic and achievable goals and direction.

d) A sense of optimism: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13) – i.e. the things that I am able to do and will do, I do through the strength that Christ supplies.

B. Personality Traits

By personality traits I means those personal characteristics that influence the people you lead. This is the ability to inspire others to follow and obey. This is sometimes referred to as the “power of personhood”. You can’t learn this. You either have it or you don’t. It is charisma – not artificial or superficial, but genuine and internal.

C. Success Traits

Success traits are those characteristics that drive a leader to achieve results. These include traits like self-discipline, perseverance, endurance. Pressing on despite discouragement because you can see the goal. Encouraging those on your team to go on. This comes from the internal drive to make a difference in your life. This is about motivation.


These five character traits determine whether a leader will make consistently good decisions, impact those he leads in a powerful way, and drive him to accomplish goals.

Part III. Sermon Outlines

To listen to the audio version of these sermons in English, click on these links: Link 1 - Jn. 20:19-21; Link 2 - Jn. 20:21-23; Link 3 - Jn. 20:24-31

Title: I’ve Just Seen Jesus

Theme: The shock and reality of the resurrection

Point #3: Jesus’ resurrection turns fear into courage (19-23)

(See the Winter 2019 version of this journal for points #1 and #2)

1. The resurrected Jesus alleviates our fears (19-20)

a) He alleviates our fears by what he says (19)

b) He alleviates our fears by what he does (20)

2. The resurrected Jesus activates our courage (21-23)

a) He activates our courage to continue his work (21)

b) He activates our courage to speak with authority (22-23)

Point #4: Jesus’ resurrection turns unbelief into faith (24-29)

1. Unbelief is not convinced by second-hand testimony (24-25a)

2. Unbelief requires concrete proof (25b-28)

a) Concrete proof is what Jesus says (26)

b) Concrete proof is what Jesus has done (27a)

3. Concrete proof demands a verdict (27b-29)

a) Belief is proven by a great confession of faith (28)

b) Faith is honoured by a great blessing from Jesus (29)

i) It’s good to see and believe (29a)

ii) It’s better to believe before seeing (29b)

Conclusions (30-31)

Related Topics: Pastors

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