Why Pastors Should Use More Historical Illustrations in Sermons

Most of us preachers tend to use real-life examples, current news, pop culture, or biblical examples more than historical illustrations.

History has roots. Personal examples in sermons are great ways to connect with people. However, they can be fleeting—if not shallow. Everyone laughed at the story of my son and the half-eaten cupcake, but—like the cupcake—it wasn’t sustaining. With historical examples, you tell an enduring story, one that has stood the test of generations and validated by time.

 

I once attempted to use an example from accounting in my sermon. No one understood me, and the accountants in the church said I mixed up my terms. Apparently, debits and credits are not as straightforward as I thought, which is why—I guess—that accountants have jobs.

Sermon illustrations are tricky. You try to be funny, but you’re corny. You try to be inspirational, but you’re cheesy. You try to be serious, and you have a booger in your nose. Sermon illustrations are the flavoring to the meat of the text. Without them, you’re bland. But too much, and you’re overbearing. A few weeks ago, I posted about the different types of sermon illustrations. In this post, I’ll focus on historical illustrations.

Likely, you need more historical illustrations in your sermons, not less. Most of us preachers tend to use real-life examples, current news, pop culture, or biblical examples more than historical illustrations.

People are not as familiar with the past. Frankly, we don’t know our history like we once did—biblical history, family history, and our nation’s history. Preaching always has elements of teaching. Good teaching should include regular doses of history.

History connects generations. When Millennials understand the attack on Pearl Harbor, they can better relate to the remaining members of the Builder generation. When Builders get to know Millennials, they can help put the 9/11 attack into perspective. When used properly, history is a bridge, not a wall.

History repeats. The adage is true. Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. The entire Old Testament is a case in point. Over and over again, the people in the Old Testament repeated the same offenses because they would not learn from historical sins. By the end of the Old Testament, you’re exhausted from reading it and ready for a solution. Thankfully, He’s introduced in Matthew’s gospel.

The Bible is historical. Why care about history? The Bible is history!

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