03 May, 2007

Pastor Struggles with "Terrible Sermon Illustrations"

ST. PETERSBURG, MARYLAND

The Reverend Steve Roman has been the pastor
of First Baptist Church St. Petersburg for almost ten years. While loved by his congregation for his charm, whit and devotion to his people, Roman has begun to struggle over the past few years with an inability to come up with sermon illustrations that remotely make sense.

"It all began about four years ago." Said Roman. "I'm not sure what happened, but suddenly I just couldn't come up with a sermon illustration anymore that was clear. It was as if I used up all my good ones during my first six years of ministry and just ran out of stories to tell. It seems that no matter how hard I try anymore everyone is just baffled by the point I'm trying to make."

In a recent sermon delivered by Roman on Joshua 6 and the defeat of Jericho by Israel, he stated,

"The fall of the walls of Jericho was like when you're eating a bag of chips on your couch. You're relaxed and calm, you're looking for the remote, and you don't want to be disturbed, and suddenly the dog just jumps into your lap or the phone rings and you have to get up. It bothers you because it shakes up your relaxation. And when Jericho's walls fell it really shook the wicked people of that city off of their couches. We really need to be shaking people's couches."

"I just can't seem to get my illustration sense back." Said Roman. "When I'm up there in the pulpit what I'm saying seems to make sense, but then after I say it I can see the utter confusion on everyone's faces. When I go back and listen to the recordings I just ask myself 'What were you thinking?'"

Unfortunately, the problem has extended beyond Roman's illustrations to his analogies also. Some recent excerpts from his sermons revealed the following comparisons,

"The flood came upon the land like a bucket of bloated whale blubber."
"The wickedness of Ahab was worse than all the cars in China."

"David looked upon Bathsheba with lust, like a cat in a hail storm."
"Noah's Ark was huge, like a big boat."

"We so want to support him." Said member Amber Lee. "We love him, and we know he means well, but I honestly haven't understood a single one of his sermons for months now. I don't know if he can read some books or something to get better, but something needs to be done."

In an effort to hopefully remedy the situation Roman plans to take a three month sabbatical this summer to spend time coming up with some new illustrations.

"I've just lost my touch, and I need to get it back." Said Roman. "Hopefully this summer I'll be able to get some thoughts organized, possible have some funny things happen to me so that I'll be able to communicate with my people again. Being this way is like falling out of a tree while eating an apple."

14 comments:

tomgee said...

As someone occasionally privileged to preach, I can certainly sympathize with this struggle. When struggling to derive a good illustration, the first ones that come to mind are invariably exotic and unusable. :-)

Speaking of which, the winner of the likely-fabulous "Worst Simile of All Time" is this: The sailboat glided effortlessly across the lake in the same way as a bowling ball would not.

God's blessing on you in Russia, Tom!

Reformed Pastor said...

This story hits me in the same way the sound of a fog horn hits a Komodo Dragon. :)

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

Maybe this pastor needs to worry more about his exegesis of a text rather than his sermon illustrations. He would probably do better just preaching exegetically and leave out the sermon illustrations.

Sarah said...

I once heard an illustration I will never forget:

"When I was a young boy, I remember my brother splashing a bucket of ice cold water all over me outside in the middle of winter. It was miserable! We need to be like that bucket of water...spilling over with the Holy Spirit onto others!"

Yeah...that WOULD make a difference, wouldn't it?

Sewing said...

It's certainly a concrete illustration that would wake the congregation up!

tomgee said...

joshua: You believe that good illustrations have no place in expositional preaching? I must enthusiastically disagree.

My pastor is a great expositor (we just spent 2.5 wonderful years working through Romans), and has come up with many superb images and illustrations for his points.

One of the funniest poor illustrations I've heard (not from my pastor), was "We need to be salt and light to a dry and thirsty land." :-)

Jeff said...

"David looked upon Bathsheba with lust, like a cat in a hail storm."

That one moved me to repentance...


Joshua you sound a lot like you could use some "calvinix" before commenting...

Sewing said...

Couldn't the parables of Jesus, too, be construed as illustrations—word pictures that he used to convey deep truths?

"Salt...to a dry and thirsty land"—ouch!

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

No I am not opposed to illustrations, but when preachers worry more about silly illustrations instead of the content of their sermon we have a serious problem. I use illustrations often, but they are not required.

Chris said...

Being a Douglas Adams fan, I wish more pastors would use wonky illustrations like that. I can't stop laughing! :-D

(And I'm kidding about wishing they'd use illustrations like that. I DO wish, however, that someone would write a book of those. Hilarious!) :)

AspiringTheologian said...

Man, that pastor's illustrations are as 'bout as good as an elephant trying to parachute out of a space shuttle into a vat of ketchup.

Alice C. said...

To see what some pastors are ACTUALLY using as sermon illustrations see this: Dr. Seuss

Unbelieveable!

pilgrim said...

I'd expect such a pastor to be one those stereotyped Southerners who say stuff like "I'm happy than a pig flying a helicopter." You know the type you see in movies...

violet vervet said...

Yeah at my wedding the priest gave a sermon called 'the leaf and the mudpie'. He said that a good marriage is made up of a leaf and a mudpie. Sometimes the leaf has to cover up the mudpie - when it is hot so it doesn't crack, or when it is raining so it doesn't wash away. And sometimes the mudpie has to cover up the leaf - when it is windy so the leaf doesn't blow away. It was the lamest thing I ever heard....