I love to listen to Ron Hutchcraft’s “A Word With You” via radio or podcasts. He has the amazing ability to take ordinary life, things I understand really well, and use them to help me understand the spiritual, something I hardly understand at all. He uses what I understand to help me understand what I don’t understand. Understand? His illustrations illuminate my misunderstandings and clarify truth so I can understand it and apply it. That’s a lot of words to say illustrations illuminate understanding.
A great example is his Going Through the Motions. (https://www.hutchcraft.com/a-word-with-you/your-most-important-relationship/going-through-the-motions-6685) In this message he clarifies that a couple doesn’t leave the wedding rehearsal married. They walk down the isle. They say their vows, but they are only going through the motions. He uses this story that is easy to understand to illuminate the fact that too often we just go through the motions without sincerity or life change.
There are 3 main reasons I enjoy listening to Ron Hutchcraft
- 1. He has something to say.
- 2. He engages me with interesting antidotes. He is concise, without being curt. He paints a picture without being verbose.
- 3. I always have a “take away” from what he has to say.
Ron Hutchcraft is a master at illustration for the purpose of understanding. The pursuit of understanding must always be the underlying purpose of any communication. Restated:
- Understanding is important.
- Ignorance is not bliss.
- What you don’t know can and will hurt you.
- Our brain dumps almost all of what we do not understand.
- We can’t apply what we don’t understand.
Your goal as a teacher should always be to teach for understanding. That means illustrate it. But how?
- 1. Jesus used stories. As a matter of fact, the Bible says He never taught without one. That’s one of my favorite ways to teach.
- 2. Objects. Ezekiel is the object lesson book of the Bible. God used one illustration after another to talk to His people throughout Scripture.
- 3. Things they understand. Always move from what they do know to what they don’t know. Build a foundation. Then move from there.
- 4. Things they like.What do they talk about? What do they play with? What are they worried about? What music do they listen to? What is going on in their world, from their point of view, that affects them?
I’m about to climb on my soap box and this may not be pretty!
It’s not an illustration if it doesn’t illustrate something! Now here’s the ranting part. I’ve seen so many folks purchase a really cool Magic Trick that they absolutely loved. So they contrived a quick little blurb that was totally unrelated to anything so they could use the trick and make it fit the requirement for the sermon part of the lesson. But a forced little blurb is not the same thing as an illustration.
Two thoughts while I’m still on my soapbox.
- 1. If you want to use the trick, it can be used as a fun treat for the class. It doesn’t have to be used in the sermon.
- 2. If you want it to illustrate a point, spend the time to develop the illustration. I’ve spent weeks and months mulling over an idea for an illustration. Wayne’s ideas seem to pop from nowhere like popcorn in an air popper, but mine simmer like good soup in a crock pot on the kitchen counter.
My creative process.
a. I jot my ideas down, usually in Evernote. That is the one app I use every single day.
b. I pray over the idea. Not long winded prayers, but I ask God to give me understanding.
c. I visit the idea in Scripture. Is this idea biblically sound? Is it something the class needs to know about? Will it accomplish what God wants me to talk about?
d. I review my notes and write down any new ideas without deleting the old ideas.
e. I brainstorm with someone. Wayne is my favorite brainstorming partner. He is a great listener. He gets excited with me, even though he never wears an excited face. And best of all, he is really smart!
f. If your first idea doesn’t work, then try something different. Nothing lost, unless you decide to use an idea that stinks. If you use a stinking idea, you’ll stink and the trick will too, even if it’s executed successfully.
So all that being said, illustrate, Illustrate, ILLUSTRATE. Make it meaningful. Make it engaging. And never, ever forget make it clear and easy to understand.