Mike Raiter lists seven things he wishes people understood about illustrations.
Number 2 is I wish preachers knew that illustrations are primarily didactic.
The most important purpose of the illustration is to aid understanding. Someone has said, “if you can’t illustrate it, you don’t understand it”. If you don’t illustrate it, then the people might not understand it. Many of the concepts we teach are quite abstract, and an illustration helps people to understand them. Jesus used parables, not to entertain the people, but to teach them – and, at times to bring judgment upon them (Matt 13:14–15). Indeed, often the parable was the primary vehicle for his teaching. When he perceived that the Pharisees were objecting to his eating with sinners, Jesus immediately explained why, using three stories involving a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son (Luke 15). On this occasion, nothing more needed to be said. For most of us, conceptual language is primary and the metaphor or parable is secondary. The proposition and the illustration serve each other; both clarify the concept we are trying to communicate. Both teach.
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