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Grafting in the Third-Person Illustration (part one)

How to make illustrations that do not come from your own experience into an organic part of the sermon.

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This is part one of a two-part series. To read part two, click here.

Preaching experts sometimes advise, "Don't use 'canned' illustrations." Canned is a pejorative term applied to illustrations that come from a sermon illustration book, online site, or magazine. A "canned" illustration did not originate with you. It is someone else's material, found in the media, perhaps with ready-made sermon application. "Canned" suggests that the illustration is not fresh. It is secondhand, processed. The preacher cannot escape two or more degrees of separation.

Although the intent of the advice is good, it is undiscriminating. Taken to its logical conclusion, it implies that any illustration that does not originate in personal experience is unfit. That rules out historical illustrations. That precludes illustrations from television programs, TV and radio newscasts, newsmagazines, newspapers, literature and other books. That bars all third-person illustrations. If the characteristic that makes a third-person ...

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