So let me guess. You’ve found yourself partway through writing a sermon on a powerful subject and felt like things just aren’t coming together as you pictured.
Maybe everything feels too dry (or dull), or what seemed so clear in your mind is turning into soup as you write it.
The topic is great! It’ll challenge your congregation, and you don’t want to give up on it.
But you just don’t know how to unpack it for your audience.
I think we’ve all been there, and let me tell you, if you believe your sermon isn’t going to grab everyone’s attention, you’re probably right!
The good news is, there’s a way to help make a message stick, to land your point, to bring everything together, and to make your message more relatable.
Often, what turns a message from middling to great can be using one or two well-timed sermon illustrations on faith.
What Are Sermon Illustrations?
Before we dig into some examples of what sermon illustrations on faith look like, I want to make sure we’re all on the same page.
Let’s start with this quick question: what is a sermon illustration?
In preaching, Christian illustrations usually take the form of an example or an analogy.
These can be hypothetical, historical, Biblical, or even personal.
The goal of an illustration isn’t merely to share a fun fact or tidbit for entertainment’s sake, though.
The point of an illustration is to draw in your listeners and help them connect the dots between the text and what they experience in real life.
How Many Kinds of Sermon Illustrations Are There?
The form and delivery of an illustration can vary quite a bit. For instance, it could look like:
- A story told in first person
- A quote read verbatim
- A short narrative-driven example (much like Jesus’s parables)
- A practical analogy comparing and contrasting directly with your subject matter
Plus, I regularly track the following places to come up with illustrations for my sermons:
- Google Trends
- Amazon Top Seller List
- Social Media
- Email Newsletters
- My Evernote file filled with illustrations I bank up for potential future use
Illustrations can be pulled from almost any area of life and brought to bear on faith.
You could tell an example of a time you were highly stressed out as a way to kick off a sermon on anxiety and trusting the Lord. Or, you could include a paraphrased (and maybe PG) retelling of David and Bathsheba as an example illustration when preaching on faithfulness, marriage, and fidelity. The details in that story are powerful.
Or, you could create a simile. I once did an entire series on the premise that becoming a Christian is like getting married (it happens in an instant), and being a Christian is like being married (marriage takes a lifetime to grow into and explore).
There really isn’t a limit to examples we could dive into.
On the one hand, that’s great!
But on the other, it may leave you with more questions than answers. But don’t worry; it’ll get more clear as you keep reading.
My point here is that you need to choose one that helps your audience connect to, and understand, the main point of your sermon.
Why Illustrations Can Work for You or Against You
Almost any sermon is better with an illustration than without one. But not every illustration will accomplish what you want it to.
Let me explain.
The reason stories and illustrations are so memorable is because the chemistry in our brains literally changes when we hear one. We’re literally wired to remember them.
That can work for you or against you. If you tell a meaningless opening story about watching the game the night before, people will remember your story, but they won’t remember the point.
And often, that’s because preachers tell stories without a point– they’re just trying to get a laugh or connect with people.
The best use of illustrations is to use an illustration that IS the point. For example, in a sermon where I was talking about money and possessions, I had a section of the stage filled with old items like stereos, sports gear, and toys that at one time cost a ton of money but are now worthless.
I asked people what it means that the thing we wanted so badly and spent a ton of money on when it was new is now the thing we’d give away for free or pay someone to take. That eventually, today’s treasures are tomorrow’s trash and end up in the landfill. Then I launched into Jesus’ teaching about possessions.
That analogy was the point of the message. So when people remember the illustration, they remember the main point.
Any time you can make the illustration the main point, your message gets stickier.
Inspiring Faith Illustrations
Remember, an illustration fits with your unique style and sermon.
I strongly discourage copying someone else’s sermon (or sermon illustrations) to make your point for you.
Let’s dive into how you can fit faith illustrations into your sermons.
Personal Sermon Illustrations on Faith
Faith is a deeply personal subject. One of the most powerful ways to make things relatable is to use illustrations that come directly from personal testimonies.
This can start with your own experience, but if you’re preaching to the same group repeatedly, be warned that it’s easy to wear out your own stories.
The last thing you want is eye rolls as you trot out the same personal story for the hundredth time.
Though you aren’t alone, I think we’ve all been guilty of that before…
Instead, supplement your stock of illustrations by looking for real-life stories of other individuals, too. It also takes the pressure off your family, who probably isn’t that excited about you sharing every single detail of their lives publicly week after week.
A great place to start is with your congregation.
Seek out testimonies of times your church members demonstrated faith in the face of their own life challenges (and, of course, get their permission to use them).
And don’t just repeat the stories you get verbatim, either.
To better match illustrations with your sermons, consider how you can repurpose them in ways that will help your listeners empathize and resonate with the experience. And, by extension, the larger faith takeaways of your message.
Biblical Faith Stories
No doubt you saw this one coming, right? The Bible is an obvious and excellent source of faith-focused examples.
When the walls of Jericho come tumbling down, that’s faith. When Queen Esther approaches her husband, that’s faith. When the centurion tells Jesus to simply “Say the word,” that’s faith.
If you want a quick summary of some of your best scriptural faith illustrations, start in Hebrews 11. The book consists of a roll call of the faithful and is often referred to as the Bible’s “Faith Hall of Fame.”
The key is not to reference these stories as “of course, everyone knows ________.” First, many people don’t know. Second, the stories told in the bible have powerful details and surprises. If you really explore them authentically, no one will be bored.
Practical Examples of Faith Illustrations
Here are some practical examples of faith illustrations to get those creative juices flowing.
Applicable Sermon Illustrations on Faith
If you want your listeners to have actionable takeaways from a sermon on faith, it’s a good idea to look for practical illustrations.
For instance, you might use a story like that of a Scottish pastor who faithfully served at his post despite a lack of growth in his church. One year a single boy was converted – Robert Moffat – he would become one of the most influential missionaries to ever minister in South Africa. Again, research the details and tell it in a compelling way – that’s a powerful story.
There are so many other similar illustrations that demonstrate strength and resilience if you look for them.
Mercifully Simple (and Memorable) Faith-Based Analogies
When it comes to the concept of faith, sometimes the most practical illustrations are simple, generic, and grounded illustrations.
For instance, you can use the example of having faith in a chair to hold you up. Or that faith is like popping a kernel of corn – small to start, but can grow surprisingly quick when under pressure.
You get the idea. These kinds of illustrations are simple to memorize and recall outside of an auditorium or meeting place. And easy to Google.
You can also use an illustration as an anti-example (I made that up).
For example, in a series on prayer, you could use a button and explain that many people see prayer as a button to be pushed and get disappointed when God doesn’t do what we want when we want it.
I talked about the inadequacy of that view in the message. After all, do you know anyone who likes to be treated like a button to be pushed?
And then dropped the sermon’s bottom line: Prayer isn’t a button to be pushed; it’s a relationship to be pursued.
People still talk about that illustration years later.
The Benefits of Relatable Illustrations
When you take the time to work illustrations into your sermons, you tap into several important benefits.
For instance, we already touched on the fact that a good illustration can make an often convoluted concept like faith relatable and help listeners grasp the nuances required to gain a deeper understanding of what you’re saying.
And when you suddenly deviate from your main point to tell a story or share an experience, it breaks up the monotony of speaking conceptually on a complex subject.
Diversions like this can help your audience stay interested and attentive to your words.
The big takeaway?
A good illustration can supplement the bottom line of your sermon so that people remember and apply it to their lives. As a result, it helps your listeners recall and apply your message later when facing the ups and downs of walking their faith out in real time.
Using Faith-Based Illustrations to Make Sermons More Relatable
It’s important to take your message beyond an opening joke and trivial illustration from something that happened earlier that week.
You’ll deliver better sermons by working ahead, keeping an idea bank of illustrations, and taking the time to search and think through powerful illustrations.
As you improve your preaching, you’ll see the impact of your messages soar.
Illustrations, especially sermon- or faith-focused, are essential to make your message more relatable. It doesn’t matter if you use a practical analogy, personal testimony, or any other illustrative form.
What matters is finding the perfect illustrations to help bring your sermon to life, pique your listener’s curiosity, and make your main point as memorable as possible.