Jesus realized the power of telling stories when He taught and communicated with others. It was the best way in that day to communicate the eternal truth to small fishing villages and farm towns, sometimes even His own followers. When you talk to farmers about planting seeds, they instantly understand without the story teller having to give too much background. God used stories and metaphors through the prophets and the images weren’t always pleasant or comfortable. His use of stories was always a means to an end, the end being the more intimate knowledge of the eternal and loving God.

Using illustrations is just as powerful today. We live in an entertainment driven culture, spending billions on movies, DVDs, theater, music, and other entertainment. If our culture is willing to spend so much money to watch visual stories (i.e. movies, etc.), then shouldn’t the church be investing in communicating this way?

As a pastor or group leader, sermon illustrations bring to life the truth you are seeking to communicate. It’s the same reason Jesus did it; to connect an audience with his message. We all know the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In video you have 30 pictures (or frames) a second. If the average clip you show a congregation lasts for two and a half minutes then you have just saved yourself 540,000 words.

Jesus created word pictures to draw His audience into His message. Now I know personally that I am nowhere near Christ in my ability to communicate, so I need all the help I can get. I would venture to say that you feel similarly. Jesus also said that we would accomplish greater things in ministry than He did while on earth. So, I encourage you to preach His message using whatever means are available to share the Gospel.

Why do we need videos in church?

Illustration videos can play an important role in your church or group, providing not only an excellent visual tool to help communicate a life-changing message, but to provoke thought, inspiration, and understanding, with an approach that’s entertaining.

It is fascinating how seamless videos can become in a sermon. A well placed video clip can express an idea that might take ten minutes of explanation in the space of two to three minutes. Not only have you saved time for the rest of your message but your congregation is completely engaged. The first rule of show business also offers insight for preaching and teaching: Leave your audience wanting more. What we endeavor to accomplish is much more important than just entertainment but I love the principle: if your audience wants more, then they will learn more. If they want to leave, then turn out the lights — the show is over.

Think about how many times you have been frightened by a scary movie, almost purchased a piece of gym equipment from an infomercial, or sponsored a child for just 79 cents a day. Your responses mean that you were totally engaged, and that is the same effect video and multimedia can produce. I think Pastor Griffin Jones of Temple Baptist in Odessa, Texas says it best: “Since God has given us five senses, and some would even refer to a ‘sixth sense,’ it is incumbent on communicators of the Gospel to engage all of those senses in conveying the Message. That there are so many visual and audio stimuli around us in the media makes every individual aware of their presence, potential, power, and impact.”

Every church has its own unique qualities or personality. You know the congregation better than anybody. You know that there are certain things that will work while other things will not be received. That is why Paul said that there are many parts to one body. As a pastor, you communicate to your congregation constantly throughout the week before you even get to Sunday. It is your calling to know the pulse of the group. You know how and where they need to be challenged or encouraged and what message they need to hear. Videos can be used to enhance this uniqueness, and can be used in a variety of different settings and groups to serve many different purposes.

Today there are video illustrations available for a multitude of topics, ranging from marriage to Jesus’ teachings, from the Holy Spirit to stewardship to cults. Working with hundreds of churches every week, I see one of the most effective ways ministers use videos is to support a theme or provide an illustration.

Karen Donovan and her husband, Pastor Joe, lead the people at West Bay Community Church, a new church with a small but growing congregation in Largo, Florida. “We use videos to reach as many people as we can in every way we can,” says Karen. “Some of the videos have incredible production values yet others may have a more homemade look. I use them both. Different situations require a different approach.”

Pastor Rick Rocco of Frontline Christian Church, a new non-denominational church plant in Hamden, Connecticut explains, “I didn’t realize that when I stumbled across that first downloadable short video, my entire ministry would change. I run two separate types of services, one family worship service on Sunday and one Emerging Church on Monday night . . . We use videos for both. My congregation is excited and is retaining more of the Word because of video tools.”

Here are more examples: The video Rush, by Golden Lamb is a fast paced vignette documenting a businessman’s busy schedule from dawn to dusk. It poses the question: is the rush worth it? A parenting video called Fatherhood by Stewart Redwine takes a humorous look at how parents can make mountains out of mole hills in their children’s lives. And, in an artistic interpretation called The Stations, Ghislaine Howard’s paintings cause us to do more than wait. Her stark images will help your congregation enter into the reality and the horror of Christ’s agony.

In addition to supporting sermon themes and illustrations, videos can be used to show a compelling testimony, add humor, or as a closer.

“With the advent of video in mainstream church ministry, we have seen a dramatic increase in our sermon effectiveness as well as the tremendous impact that a carefully crafted video illustration or video vignette brings to the service setting,” says Pastor Steve Mohr, who leads a postmodern church of more than 350 in the Assemblies of God denomination in rural Seattle. “We use materials for a welcome/greeting transition; humorous interludes, as well as serious media to set up the message or to enhance a point of the message.”

One area where we have seen explosive growth is in the use of videos for worship. In the video Galaxy, by Highway Video, the producers created compelling images of the universe with graphics and animation. Visual metaphors are used along with worship music to usher in an extraordinary worship experience.

Pastor Scott Keller of Skyline Community Church in O’Fallon, Illinois states, “[Videos] have provided our creative team with fresh ideas, such as using a video along with our own praise band to play live over the video. It looked like we had spent hours putting it together and it made a huge impact.”

There are numerous videos to support virtually every category topic. What touches an individual? It may be the music, the words on the screen, or the story itself. In whatever part of the service they are used, videos can enhance our experience with God, help drive home the message we are trying to communicate, and add impact and effectiveness to the church experience.

With the excellent media sources available today, I encourage you to go beyond the “normal” routine, and try adding a new video component to your service. Chances are your congregation is willing and maybe even hungry for the change.

As the name “Christian” implies, we are called to be like Christ in all that we say and do. Peter also challenges us to do everything as if we were doing it for Christ personally, and what a challenge that is. This is the basis for taking our communication of the Gospel to the next level.

Let’s speak to a society that is hungry for something but doesn’t yet know what. Let’s speak their language and give them our message. You wouldn’t support a missionary to a foreign country if they refused to learn the language in order to communicate, just as you wouldn’t purchase a book in a language you didn’t understand. It is not a matter of the desire you or I might have. I would love to be able to read a book in Japanese but regardless of how much I want to, the ability and the knowledge are not there. This is how we must communicate, this is our challenge.

The Message is sacred; the method is not.


George Temple is President of SermonSpice (

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