Sermon illustrations


Better Never than Late

Like most artists, the Scotsman George Bernard Shaw experienced a lot of rejection early in his career, before he eventually became a celebrated playwright. During this period of struggle, one of his plays was routinely turned down by a certain producer. This of course changed after Shaw experienced a measure of success. Unsurprisingly the producer changed his mind and sent off an urgent cable offering to put on the oft’ rejected play. Shaw cabled, with sarcastic wit, “Better never than late.”

Stuart Strachan Jr.

One-in-a-Million Talk

One of the most quotable movies of all time was released in 1994. It featured a rising comedic genius from Canada, paired with another highly successful actor, as well as a considerable ensemble cast that helped raise the work to one of the greatest films in comedy ever produced. 

You know what movie I’m referring to right? Dumb and Dumber, which was at its heart a love story, but unfortunately for its protagonist, Loyd Christmas, an unrequited love story. Lloyd Christmas, played by Jim Carrey, and Harry Dunne, played by Jeff Daniels, go on an epic road-trip to try and win over Mary Swanson (Lauren Holly) as his romantic interest; they finally arrive in Aspen, where Mary is currently on a ski vacation.

Loyd finally works up the courage and asks her the question on every lovestruck person’s mind: “what are the chances of a girl like me and a guy like you getting together?” Her response would have been seen as an outright rejection by most, but not the serial optimist Lloyd: “I don’t know, one in a million.” Cue the long pause, and then the punch-line… “So you’re saying there’s a chance!!!!!” Later, when Mary rejects Loyd more finally, his response is classic, “What was all that one-in-a-million talk?” 

Stuart Strachan Jr., Source content from Farrelly, Bobby, and Peter Farrelly. Dumb and Dumber. New Line Cinema, 1994.

A Rough Start to Ministry

Pastor Craig Groeschel shares the true story of his “less than promising” career as a pastor. It should serve as a reminder that rejection and criticism are never final, unless we allow them to be:

Only weeks after putting my faith in Jesus, I tried to teach my first Bible study to a group of young guys in a little church in Ada, Oklahoma. Afterward the leader of the youth group said, “Well, I guess teaching the Bible is not your gift, is it?” Three years later I finally got up the nerve to try teaching the Bible again, after being asked to preach my first sermon.

After the service, as I stood at the door saying goodbye to church members, an older gentleman looked at me with a raised brow and remarked, “Nice try.” Nice try?! The next lady in line asked if I had any other skills besides being a preacher and then made a weak attempt to encourage me to keep my options open. Seriously, that really happened.

I had to fight off the temptation to run and hide in the church baptistry. And yes, full immersion! Despite yet another setback, still believing God’s call, I continued my journey toward full-time vocational ministry by going to seminary following college and marriage.

About halfway through seminary, the day finally came when I stood before a group of spiritual leaders as a candidate for ordination in our denominational church. With the entire committee looking on, the spokesperson explained to me, “We’ve chosen not to ordain you. You don’t have the gift-mix we see in most pastors. In fact, we are not sure you are called to be a pastor. But feel free to try again next year. But for now, it’s a no.”

Craig Groeschel, Winning the War in Your Mind, Zondervan, 2021.

Why We are Reluctant to Share the Gospel

Why is it so intimidating to talk about Jesus in contemporary western culture? One obvious reason might lie in the ubiquitous negative portrayals of Christians in mainstream media. Sam Chan makes this point in his book, How to Talk about Jesus: Without being That Guy as he shares a scene from the American version of the show, The Office. On The Office, Angela represents the closed-minded, angry, and judgmental version of a Christian we see so often (quite lazy writing in my opinion) in (at least) American TV and movies. In the scene below, Jim, the affable protagonist asks everyone to share three books they would bring with them if they were stranded on a desert island:

Jim: “Angela?”

Angela: “The Bible.”

Stanley: “That’s one book. You’ve got two others.”

Angela: “The Purpose Driven Life.”

Jim: “Nice. Third book?”

Angela: “No.”

It’s not hard to see that Christians don’t have a great reputation, especially for some reason in their media portrayals. Most of us would probably argue these are one-dimensional stereotypes (ironic, when you think of Hollywood’s desire to be “nonjudgmental”) but nevertheless, most of us don’t want to look like Angela, which may make us reticent to share the good news when it’s often represented as the opposite on TV.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Up for Sale?

One of the early hits of the internet had to be eBay. Suddenly getting rid of your old junk, or otherwise unnecessary “stuff,” could be sold, not just to your neighbors in a yard sale, but to anyone with an internet connection and an eBay account. And because human beings are, well, human (aka odd), there is a never-ending supply of strange things that have been auctioned off on the site. For instance, a haunted rubber duck, which the seller purported to have the ability to possess children.

Who wouldn’t want a haunted rubber ducky? Well, apparently enough people to drive the price to 107,000! What about a grilled cheese sandwich? Not interested? Well what if said sandwich came with the face of Mary, yes that Mary, the mother of Jesus? That sandwich sold for $28,000. If you are starting to think some people have too much money (and time) on their hands, you are not alone. One of the strangest items to go up for bid, however, ended up breaking the eBay terms of service.

One 10-year old girl from England tried selling her grandmother. I’m not exactly sure why she was ready to cart off her poor grandmother, but maybe she was desperate for something–a doll perhaps?

Perhaps the strangest item to be put up for sale was a man’s own life. This is what the ad said:

My name is Ian Usher and I’ve had enough of my life. I don’t want it anymore. You can have it if you like. Whatever it is, it’s all going up for sale in one big auction, everything I have and everything I am. On the day that it’s sold and settled, I intend to walk out the front door with my wallet in one pocket and my passport in the other, nothing else. And then get on the train with no idea where I am going or what the future holds for me”

Ultimately, Ian sold for $305,000 and with that money, the man moved to Australia. It turns out his wife had left him after six years of marriage and he was so dejected, so rejected that felt his life no longer had any purpose.

Ian clearly needed a reset, but was selling his life the solution to his problem?

Stuart Strachan Jr.

See also Illustrations on Adversity, Bitterness, Brokenness, Failure, Judgment, Lament, Pain