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Sidestepping Seven Illustration Pitfalls

It's easy to do more harm than good with an illustration. Here's how to avoid undermining an otherwise great message.

Sidestepping Seven Illustration PitfallsSee theme

Several years ago, I heard a sermon illustration I thought was great for demonstrating determination, so I decided to use it. It went like this:

On the last day of the 1956 Olympic Games, Austria had yet to win a gold medal. Its only hope was a young Austrian named Johann, who had entered the rapid-fire pistol competition. His teammates weren't disappointed. As he fired his last shot, he gave his country their single gold medal.

When Johann returned to his homeland, his country gave him a warm welcome and a huge parade in his honor. Tragically, only a few weeks later, his right hand—his shooting hand—was blown off in an accident.

But this didn't stop Johann. After his body had healed, he walked out the back door of his home with something stuffed under his shirt. His wife noticed the bulge and followed him to a place where she saw him loading a pistol, holding it between a tree and his leg. Shot by shot, he emptied the pistol with his left hand and reloaded. After months ...

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Displaying 1–5 of 7 comments

todd lemmon

September 06, 2007  10:01pm

Good reminders for us all.

Curtis Buthe

September 02, 2007  9:46am

Very good article. Here's a possible #8: Don't use a trivial story or analogy to illustrate a profound truth. The profound can be minimized or lost if the illustration is too simple. For instance, telling a story about an ant who saves his colony from destruction to illustrate the way Jesus saved us from eternal punishment might "work" but it is so trivial (unless you're an ant) that it doesn't carry much power for a truth so profound. - Curtis Buthe, Cedar Hills Baptist, Portland Oregon

Scott Lowry

September 02, 2007  8:42am

A practical, too the point, call to integrity . . .excellent!

David Collett

August 31, 2007  10:49pm

Good stuff. I have noticed that usually there are several versions of stories that are questionable. Better to make sure it is true if one is going to say it is!

Rafael Agosto

August 30, 2007  11:08am

Great Article I have always been careful about using illustartions that I hear from different ministers or ministries.; boy have i heard some good ones. Upholding our Integrity is important all it takes is one instance and your credibilty is shot . The problem is that this practice is as common as inflated attendance numbers. Pastor Rafael Agosto Surrender Christian Church

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