More FOAM less beer

foamI promised earlier in the week that I’d share a little acronym I use when thinking about illustration in preaching. Again, this isn’t mine, but is shamelessly stolen from communication coach and all round good egg Richard Garnett. He gave this little acronym to work with:

  • F – facts and stats
  • O – opinions and quotes
  • A – anecdotes/stories
  • M – metaphors

He suggests (rightly in my view) that these four things tickle different parts of the brain. Facts, stats, and quotes engage our left brain – the analytical and rational part; Stories and metaphors tickle our right brain – the creative emotive bit. In the exercise of persuasion we need to satisfy both sides – we need to think and feel that what we’re being told is true and works. Garnett also suggests trying to alternate them so that you don’t overload on one side at any one time.

Two other comments I’d add when it comes to illustration. First, illustration teaches. We sometimes think that there’s content and then there’s illustration – the beer and the froth. I’m increasingly persuaded that this view is wrong. Illustration does teach – it just gets us at different levels. So don’t be caught out thinking your light on content if you have plenty of illustration – your just hitting people with truth at different angles and in different places. Second, you need more illustration than you think. Stop thinking about the old state the point, explain the point, illustrate the point, apply the point. Why don’t you think about having 3-4 diff ways of illustrating your point. They don’t all have to be 5 minute stories about someone getting their head caved in with a shovel in Vietnam. They can be one-liners piled up, or a quick metaphor, or a quotation. Pile up your illustration, tickle left and right brain, bring it home, seek to persuade. Illustration is your teaching buddy, not just the froth you have to put in to keep ADDs happy.


2 Replies to “More FOAM less beer”

  1. Like the last para. I’ve been trying to gradually up my illustration quality and quantity, because I think illustration is a form of explanation and may work better for lots/most people than standard explanation. Or perhaps more accurately you need the two to work together.

    That said I still state, explain, illustrate, apply 😉

  2. Thanks Martin, you’ve encouraged me as I’m thinking about preaching for Pentecost Sunday. We’ve been working through Romans and are now at chapter 6. So I’m planning to stop and look specifically at what Romans says about the Holy Spirit so far. I’m probably going to focus in on 5:5 -The love of God has been poured out into your heart through the Holy Spirit. Particular as we’ve been that way already with an exposition of the passage I think I’ll be working hard on illustrating what the verse means ..what difference will these words make Monday morning when you’re tempted to lose your temper with someone, Wednesday when someone’s going to tell lies about you. Friday when you’re tempted to date the non-Christian …

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