Sermon illustrations


A 12 Million Dollar Education

Tom Watson, Sr., is the man who founded IBM. You can imagine the money, the investments, the experiments, this man, and his multi-billion dollar company have made through the years. Once, years ago, when a million dollars was still a million dollars, Watson had a top junior executive who spent $12 million of the company’s money on a venture that failed.

The executive put his resignation on Watson’s desk saying, “I’m sure that you want my resignation.” Watson roared back:, “No I don’t want your resignation. I’ve just spent $12 million educating you. It’s about time you get to work.

Andy Cook

The Art of Followship

Editor’s Note: The following illustration came from one of my own (Stu’s) sermons, as I was trying to help the congregation make a paradigm shift from the church as a building, to the people of God:

So, what exactly is a disciple? On one level the answer is simple: a disciple is a follower of Jesus. Now in our culture, the word “follower” is often quite negative: a follower is the opposite of a leader. And we are all called to be leaders, at least according to our culture.

Leadership is an entire genre for books, for conferences, etc… If you can still find a brick and mortar bookstore, you will find a leadership section.

Interestingly enough, I’ve never seen a follower section in a bookstore, have you? Now “followers” as a term has gained some popularity in recent years because of social media. Instagram and Twitter enable people both famous and almost famous to try to build their own brand by gaining “Followers”. But again, the whole point is that you need to be a leader, so that other people can follow you.

So isn’t it interesting that the primary word for people who worship Jesus as Lord and Savior is the word “follower:? (disciple) Now in the context of Jesus’ day, a disciple was a follower not just in a general sense, but also in a particular way. A disciple tended to be either a pupil, someone that would sit at the feet of a master or be an apprentice in some sort of trade.

And I think there is something to this, that even for the first disciples, they never graduated into something else. They always remained disciples, that is followers of Jesus.

And one of the many reasons for this is that a disciple is always in a position of humility, right? They are never the master with all the answers, but always the ones who sit at the feet of Jesus. So being a disciple is to be a follower, but not just in a casual way. An apprentice or a pupil has essentially given up a whole variety of opportunities to follow the one master. We can follow a lot of things, sports teams, musicians, politicians, etc…but to be a disciple of someone is to turn your life over to them and ask that their wisdom might help direct your life. So that’s discipleship…it’s following Jesus every day, becoming more and more like Him.

Stuart Strachan Jr., Sermon: Matt.28: The Art of Followship.

Describe Milk For Me

Sometimes in life it is best to experience something rather than try to explain it. In this funny little story about two Jewish men, one blind from birth and another with full eyesight, the point is made in a rather humorous way:

“You want a glass of milk?” asks the one who can see.

“Well, describe milk for me,” says the blind one.

“Milk is a white liquid”

“Great. And what is white?”

“Well, for example, a swan is white.”

“Aha. And what is a swan?”

“A swan? It’s a bird with a long, curved neck.”

“Good, But what is “curved”?

“Curved? Well, I’ll bend my arm, and you can feel it. Then you will know what “curved means.”

The Blind person carefully feels the other’s up-curved arm, and says:

“Terrific! Now I know what milk is!”

The point is rather obvious: sometimes it is best to just experience the thing rather than describe it. Why not simply drink the milk rather than try to explain it?

Taken from Gerhard Lohfink, Is This All There Is?: On Resurrection and Eternal Life, Liturgical Press.

Get the Knowledge

Muhammed Ali served as a role model to many young people during his boxing career. When one student had the opportunity to question Ali, he asked him whether he should continue his studies in college or try and make his fortune in the world. Ali’s response was nothing if not unique: “Stay in college, get the knowledge,” Ali said. “If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can make something out of you!”

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Giving a 110 Percent

There are few things in life as unenlightening as the postgame interview. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t always bad. Some athletes and coaches can be quite insightful. I’ve seen real poise and humility in some of these interviews. But in general you don’t expect to hear original insights surface thirty seconds after the game has ended.

What you do expect is a lot of talk about how we never gave up, how we always believed in ourselves, how we gave it 110 percent, and how these kids deserve all the credit in the world (really? all of it? the whole world? no credit left for anyone else?).

Taken from The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung, © 2012, pp.79. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org


​​The Impact Noise Can have on Learning

Have you ever wondered the impact noise can have on our cognitive ability? Psychologist Arlene Bronzaft was curious to find out. Studying Public School 98 on the northern tip of Manhattan, Bronzaft found that children who were assigned to classrooms on the side of the school facing above-ground train tracks were on average, 11 months behind their counterparts on the quieter side of the school building.

After these findings were presented, the New York City Transit authority installed noise-abatement equipment on the tracks, and follow-up studies found no significant difference between the two groups.

Ari L. Goldman, Article: Student Scores Rise After Nearby Subway Is Quieted, New York Times, 1982.

The Long Lesson of Our Mortal Lives

Cross-bearing is the long lesson of our mortal life. It is a part of God’s salvation, called sanctification. It is a lesson set before us every moment of every day.” “If life were an art lesson…we could describe it as a process of finding how to turn this mud into that porcelain, this discord into that sonata, this ugly stone block into that statue, this tangle of threads into that tapestry. In fact, however, the stakes are higher than in any art lesson. It is in the school of sainthood that we find ourselves enrolled and the artifact that is being made is ourselves.

Thomas Howard and J I. Packer, Christianity: The True Humanism (Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 1985), 153.

Earrings with a Mushroom Cloud

What would you think if a woman came to work wearing earrings stamped with an image of the mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima? What would you think of a church building adorned with a fresco of the massed graves at Auschwitz? Both visions are grotesque.

They are not only intrinsically abhorrent, but they are shocking because of powerful cultural associations. The same sort of shocked horror was associated with cross and crucifixion in the first century. Apart from the emperor’s explicit sanction, no Roman citizen could be put to death by this means. Crucifixion was reserved for slaves, aliens, barbarians.

D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry: An Exposition of Passages from 1 Corinthians Baker Publishing Group.

Taking Learning Very Seriously

In ancient Judaism, discipleship was taken very seriously. It was taken so seriously that eager disciples would ty to follow their rabbi (teacher) everywhere they went. Why? Because they wanted to see the rabbi, not just in a classroom setting (though there were no “classrooms at the time), but in real life.

They wanted to see how their rabbi treated his family, handled his money, did his chores. Disciples would even compete to be present while their teacher made meals and, get this, when he went to the bathroom. According to the Talmud (a set of teachings on the Torah), one disciple was so eager to learn from his master that he snuck under the bed of his rabbi to see what happened when the rabbi and his wife went to perform the marriage act. When he was found, his response was surprising: This too is Torah, and I need to learn!”

Stuart Strachan Jr.

“They Ain’t Learned You to Hit that Curveball…”

The American Baseball player Moe Berg  was more than just a great catcher. Berg had received graduate degrees from Princeton University and the Sorbonne in Paris, knew several languages and later served as a spy during WWII. He was known for reading 10 newspapers a day, and his etymological erudition (grasp of languages) led to a quiz show where he would describe various words’ origins.

But of course he was mainly known as a baseball player, making his debut for the Brooklyn Robins in 1923, and whose career spanned 16 years, playing for the Chicago White Sox, the Cleveland Indians, the Washington Senators, and finally the Boston Red Sox.

While playing a game, one of his less educated rivals said to him, “Moe, I don’t care how many of them college degrees you got. They ain’t learned you to hit that curveball any better than me.”

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Two Offers of Education

In 1744, the College of William and Mary sent a letter to six Native American chiefs, offering a free education to twelve of their young braves. The chiefs politely declined the offer with the following reply:

Several of our young People were formerly brought up at the colleges of the Northern Provinces; they were instructed in all your sciences; but when they came back to us they were bad Runners, ignorant of every means of living in the Woods, unable to bear Cold or Hunger, knew neither how to build a cabin, take a Deer or kill an enemy, spoke our Language imperfectly, and were therefore neither fit for Hunters, Warriors, or Counselors; they were totally good for nothing.

The chiefs then made an offer of their own:

If the Gentlemen of Virginia will send us a Dozen of their Sons, we will take care of their Education; instruct them in all we know, and make Men of them.

Mark Batterson, Play the Man: Becoming the Man God Created You to Be, Baker Books, 2017.

See Also Illustrations on The Brain, Discipleship, Growth, Learning, The MindThought/sWisdom

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