Friday Fives: The Top Five Sermon Illustrations on Leaderhelps

The free sermon illustrations page on is one of the most accessed for church lay leaders, pastors, ministers, Sunday School teachers and small group leaders. That’s no surprise since good illustrations are always needed by those who teach, preach and lead.

So, this edition of Friday Fives counts down the top five most accessed illustrations since debuted a year ago.

#5 Perspective: What Cigarette Does Your Doctor Recommend?

This illustration is about perspective or, more specifically, a teaching example  or sermon illustration one could use when talking about how narrow and finite the human perspective is compared to God’s.

More specifically, it’s a teaching example one could use when teaching about the narrowness and limitations of our own perspective when compared to God’s.

We tend to feel pretty good about how smart we are, how much science has advanced in our generation and all of the frontiers we’ve conquered. In more personal terms, I sometimes get frustrated at God for not running things the way I would. ‘Cause I’m smart. I’m a college professor. And, if Gilligan’s Island is any example, we’re very smart.

So, we watch the 1948 Camel commercial – where doctors sing the praises of cigarettes and ladies dressed in finery enjoy the pure ecstasy of tar – and we smile at how ignorant people were back then.

Didn’t they know?

Nope, as a matter of fact they didn’t.

Of course that begs the question: In 2075, assuming there is such a time, what will people then be mocking us for? What don’t we know now that we think we do in all of our advances?

It will be something. Because it’s always something.

Our knowledge is always limited and God’s never is. There will always be things we don’t know or understand. Not Him.

There was never a time when He wasn’t. Never a thing He doesn’t know. That’s why the essence of faith is on the un. The unseen, the unproven, the un-measurable.

Actually, we should take great comfort in that.

#4 Biblical Kindness: The Unlikely Prom King

Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again. Og Mandino

In developing the small group study on Relationships (available here), I encountered an interesting Greek word in a very well known text.

The Scripture is 1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn’t jealous. It doesn’t sing its own praises. It isn’t arrogant. As I did, I zeroed in on that word “kind” particularly its Greek foundation: χρηστεύομαι (chrēsteuomai). It’s one of those words with rare New Testament usage, which always gets my attention.

The sense of the word isn’t just “nice” or “pleasant” in a passive or lukewarm sense, but is active – to show oneself to be kind, to use graciousness.  Kindness in a 1 Corinthians 13 sense takes the lead, searches out opportunities to love, to apply kindness. In short, you cannot be kind in the Biblical model without doing something, taking initiative, acting, sacrificing. Kindness is always on the lookout, searching for its next smile.

The story below, with thanks to Steve Hartman again, has it about right I think.

#3 Eric Torpy and the Folly of Sin

Growing up in New England, I’ve been a Boston sports fan all my life. My professional basketball team is the Boston Celtics. If you’ve followed basketball – or, frankly even if you haven’t – you’ve likely heard of one of the Celtics greatest players. He’s Larry Bird and, truthfully, he’s one of the NBA’s greatest all time players.

There are many fans of “Larry Legend” but Eric Torpy might be one of the most foolish. In October, 2005 Torpy was convicted in Oklahoma of armed robbery and shooting with intent to kill and sentenced to 30 years behind bars.

However, Torpy was a big Larry Bird fan and Bird’s number was 33. So Torpy asked the judge to add three more years to his sentence so his 33-year penalty would match Bird’s number.

Probably sounded cool when he said it. Once he began serving the sentence? Not so much.

Bird Torpy

Eric Torpy in Prison (Stan Grossfeld/Boston Globe)

From the Boston Globe piece:

But after sharing a 10-foot-by-15-foot cell at the Davis Correctional Facility for the last six years, Torpy regrets asking for the extra time.

“Now that I have to do that time, yes I do,’’ says Torpy. “I kind of wished that I had 30 instead of 33. Recently I’ve wisened up.

“That three is a big deal, you know? Three years matters.’’

A great illustration for the regret of sin, isn’t it? The temptation is always scintillating, with promises of pleasure and popularity. But it never, never ends up that way. To sin with vigor and intent continuously is to beg for those three more years…and three more…and three more…

Even sadder when there’s freedom just waiting…on the cross.

Torpy was asked if he thinks Bird knows about him:

“I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m an idiot,’’ says Torpy. “I mean, truthfully, most people do. My own family does, so I’m pretty sure he does, too.’’

#2 The Christmas Scale

The Christmas Scale is a short film narrated by the Morgan Freeman-esque actor Willie Minor. It’s produced by Igniter Media, a wonderfully talented and Godly group of artists who create content for churches. And, if you follow the link, you’ll know that they are celebrating their tenth anniversary.

If this is the first you’ve heard of Igniter, I recommend you bookmark the link and browse their content.

You can view The Christmas Scale below. However, please, if you plan to use it for your church, small group or Sunday School class, purchase it. It will be well worth your investment to become an Igniter Media member and purchase their content at always reasonable prices.

#1 Danny Keefe - Faithfulness and Loyalty

Danny Keefe is a first-grader in Bridgewater, Massachusetts – the water boy on the fifth grade football team. Danny has some learning difficulties. He always wears a tie and jacket but doesn’t always speak clearly.

That has brought ridicule and bullying to him…

And loyal love from his friends…

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
 Doesn’t have a swelled head,
 Doesn’t force itself on others,
 Isn’t always “me first,” 
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
 Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
 Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
 Puts up with anything, 
Trusts God always,
 Always looks for the best,
 Never looks back,
 But keeps going to the end.

From The Message Paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13