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Preaching Pyrotechnics

Why some illustrations work better than others.

Preaching PyrotechnicsSee theme

At any Fourth of July fireworks display, some rockets capture more attention than others. There are the delicate sprays that gently "puffph," sending to one side a dozen streaks of red or blue. There are the dazzling sky-fillers that radiate spokes of fire into a gigantic wheel of light. Then there are, what I called as a boy, the "boomers." Their launch sounded a bit louder. I would spot a small flash in the sky; a moment later the intestine-vibrating concussion thundered over the golf course, kids squealing with ear-aching delight.

Like fireworks on Independence Day, illustrations put light, color, and excitement into our sermons. They celebrate the sermon's ideas and principles. The small ones—allusions, analogies, and clever turns of phrase—are designed to support small points. But when we want to drive home the major theme, we best send up our most powerful and illuminating illustration. As a preacher and as editor of, I've ...

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