Using Illustrations to Preach with Power

By Bryan Chapell
Grand Rapids : Zondervan (1992). 223 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Alex Montoya
6.2 (Fall 1995) : 242-243

A preacher often feels like a rescuer of a near-blind man from a darkened cavern with only candlelight to help him guide the poor lost soul from his darkened state. That is why Bryan Chapell's book Using Illustrations to Preach with Power is such a refreshing and useful tool. It gives the preacher more "light," a bigger candle to help the near-blind to see his way to the true light.

 Dr. Chapell is equipped to write about preaching to preachers since he is presently Professor of Practical Theology at Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, after pastoring several churches before joining the seminary faculty in 1986. In addition, he is Vice- President and Academic Dean of that seminary.

The volume is thoroughly researched, each chapter being documented with copious footnotes and the book having a thirteenpage bibliography of homiletical works. Undoubtedly, this author has done his homework.

He states his view on the use of illustrations at the outset:

Illustrations are not supplemental to good exposition; they are a necessary form of exposition in which biblical truths are explained to the emotions and the will as well as to the intellect. Illustrations will not allow mere head knowledge. They exegete Scripture in the terms of human experience to create a whole person understanding of God's Word. By framing biblical truths in the world in which we live and move and have our being, illustrations unite our personalities, our past, our present, our affection, our fears, our frustrations, our hopes, our hearts, our minds, and our souls in the understanding of that which is divine. They are integral to effective preaching, not because they entertain, but because they expand and deepen the applications the mind and heart can make (13).

 Chapell wrote the book to demonstrate why and how illustrations can be used in biblical preaching. First, he discusses the background of and theory on the use of illustrations. Here the reader formulates his opinion on the validity of using illustrations in preaching. In the second section, the author shows how to find and make illustrations to help explain truth. The third section has three chapters on the right use of illustrations and other helpful suggestions on illustrations.

The writer is very careful to stress the importance of the biblical text as the essence of preaching. Illustrations adorn and elucidate truth, but must never supplement truth. This reviewer heartily recommends this volume to those who preach expositional sermons. Its reading will be of great help in bridging the gap between audience and preacher.