Haddon Robinson On Truth In Sermon Illustrations

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It can be tempting to exaggerate or lie when trying to entertain or persuade others. This is understandable as it is nice to feel appreciated and engaged. It is an easy trap to fall into, especially, if one’s flesh gets in the way.

Christians too?

Even though the Christian is called to glorify Christ in all aspects of their lives they struggle with this too. Unfortunately, this can happen even while preaching. Some may feel that certain exaggerations or inaccuracies are fine as long as they persuade people to come to Christ. Haddon Robinson offers some good advice on such thinking. Especially convicting is his comment on the gospel.

Illustrations should also be convincing. As much as lies in you, be sure of the facts. Although a factually inaccurate story might illustrate your idea, if you use it with an audience aware of the error, you will undermine your credibility. What is more, illustrations ought not offend the good sense of an audience. Truth may be stranger than fiction, but improbable anecdotes leave your audience to suspect that you are strange. If you must use an incident that seems far-fetched, acknowledge that and then given your authority for it. Let someone else shoulders the blame.

[snip]

Something else: because personal illustrations can have great force, you can succumb to the temptation of relating stories as though they happened to you, when in reality they did not. The gospel sits in judgement on the methods used to proclaim it, and ultimately God’s truth cannot be benefited by your falsehoods. If a congregation suspects that we will lie to make a point, they have good reason to believe we will also lie to make a convert. – Haddon W. Robinson, Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages, 2 ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2001), 158.

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1 James July 21, 2010 at 5:07 pm

It’s a good thing seminary presidents are never guilty of this. At least, all the ones I know have been exonerated of such antics.

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