4 Purposes of Illustrations in Faith Conversations

Most of us can regurgitate Christianese taught in church, but what is not always easy is engaging in deeper, spiritual conversations.

Sometimes we tend to listen just long enough to find a point in the conversation where we can interject with our own ideas. But conversation with our children, family, & friends requires attentive listening, as well as thought-filled answers.

J. P. Moreland and Tim Muehlhoff address this in The God Conversation, a book designed to help Christians wrestle with non-Christians’ tough questions through illustrations:

“The thoughts and questions our friends have about God and the Christian faith require careful answers. Our answers require study of the Scriptures, reading of Christian thinkers and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. They also require vivid illustrations to make our answers clear and memorable.” (Emphasis added)

They mention four purposes of good illustrations in their first chapter:

1.) Illustrations make an idea clear and easy to understand.

Don’t assume that something which makes sense to us will make sense to our children. Sometimes an illustration is all it takes to make a point come alive. Whereas facts are understood with the mind, an illustration is understood with the heart.

2.) Illustrations make your point easier to remember.

Whether it is a funny story or one that brings tears, we remember stories and illustrations far quicker than facts. Get in the habit of using parts of movies, songs, books, or even personal stories to illustrate spiritual points in your conversation. Don’t draw a connection between items that don’t fit, but realize there are many examples out there that will fit.

If illustrations don’t come naturally, try this idea. As you watch a movie, take a moment to think about the major themes. Later, when you need an illustration, recall to your mind films with applicable themes.

3.) Illustrations allow for “repetition without weariness.”

Chances are I’ll stop listening to someone if a conversation gets too repetitive. Kids are the same way. It can seem like you are being preached at, or just simply get boring with no more necessary information. However, a good story can successfully repeat what a lecture or conversation cannot do.

4.) Illustrations help maintain the interest of your listener.

Picture this: You’ve been sitting for an hour, listening to a monotone speaker who lost your attention within the first five minutes. It goes without saying that you will remember little of any that was said.

Picture another scene. You’ve been sitting for a long time, but you are on the edge of the seat. The speaker started with a catchy intro, and sustained your interest through the use of illustrations. Which scene would you rather be in?

Though people forget much of what is heard, they are more likely to remember it if an illustration is used.

A good story involves more than the ear. As it comes alive the eyes of the heart will see it, and the mind will picture it.

(Note: This article is adapted from a post on EvanTell's blog.)

Sarah is the author of Bathsheba’s Responsibility in Light of Narrative Analysis, contributor to Vindicating the Vixens, and contributing editor for The Evangelism Study Bible. Some of her previous ministry experiences have included teaching and mentoring of adults and children in a wide variety of settings. Her small claim to fame is that she has worked with children of every age range from birth through high school over the past 20 years. She and her husband Ben reside in Richardson, Texas with their four children.


  • SonShine

    Great Post

    This is exactly how Jesus taught! We would do well to learn from the Master and apply it to our lives. 

    Great post