This was originally published as “Illustrations Can Come from Anywhere” on March 22, 2018. I don’t do a lot of reruns but hope you enjoy this one.
If you are a preacher, know a preacher, or for that matter have ever listened to a preacher, you may have heard the oft repeated statement illustrations can come from anywhere. It’s a truism that may cause us to smile but seriously; a funny thing a child says, a misunderstanding in the supermarket line, words said in anger that have to be eaten later, literally anything a professional speaker hears about could become an illustration for a point being made. Be careful sharing those funny anecdotes around your clergyman. You may hear them again from the pulpit.
I was watching the sports report just now as we get into the thick of March Madness. Everything’s not always UK Wildcats and NC Tarheels and there have been some powerhouse upsets this year. Coy Wire illustrated the difference in school budgets by showing two different team programs. One was professionally bound with glossy pages. Loyola University-Chicago’s program was Xeroxed on regular paper and bound with a single staple. The team’s equipment manager was seen in the locker room collecting the players’ laundry in a garbage bag. Did I mention the Ramblers broke to the Sweet Sixteen? Schools, athletic programs, facilities and budgets are not created equal. And yet, on the court, it comes down to your five guys versus the other guys. Everybody loves an underdog right?
And here comes the illustration.
I pastor a small country church. We don’t have a digital projector screen that descends from the ceiling on command. We don’t have a team of greeters roaming the parking lot directing traffic or a coffee house selling scones in the vestibule. We are thankful for all that we do have because there are brush arbors and cinder block buildings around the world with dirt floors and generator powered lights. Jesus said that foxes have holes and birds have nests but that he himself didn’t have a place to lay his head. What John Piper, Clark Bunch, the missionary in a remote village in India and Jesus of Nazareth all have in common is the gospel message. Piper has written dozens of books but his Bible has the same 66 books in it that mine does. Billy Graham has been hailed as a great man of God many times in recent weeks. I may not be a great man of God, but I am a man of a great God.
The Apostle Paul wrote that one plants, another waters, but it is God who gives the increase. Regardless of who stands in the pulpit or prays with those seeking council, it is the Holy Spirit that convicts of sin and draws people to Jesus. Jesus saves in small churches, mega churches, prison cells and hospital rooms. A high dollar program printed on glossy sheets is impressive, but that doesn’t win games or save souls.
Note: Pictured above is the Loyola University’s team chaplain Sister Jean. If don’t follow basketball then you at least need to read up on Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt.