The Use and Abuse of Quotes in Your Sermon

Illustrations have been described as windows that add light into the sermon in order to illuminate abstract truths. If that is true, and I believe it is, then quotes are a good tool to have in your sermon arsenal. Except when they aren’t. Quotes can be used effectively, and they can be abused in the worst way. I want to point out the proper and improper uses of quotes in a sermon.

Good Uses of Quotes

Here are 6 reasons to use a good quote would be appropriate:

  1. Artistry: The writer says something more beautifully than you can say it yourself.
  2. Clarity: The writer makes the point clearer than you can.
  3. Impact: The writer says something in a powerful way to make your point.
  4. Pithiness: The writer says something in a memorable and “catchy” way.
  5. Depth: The writer says something with a profundity that you can’t seem to say yourself.
  6. Interesting: The writer says something that draws interest or excites the imagination.

Poor Uses of Quotes

Here are 8 reason you ought to think twice before using that quote in your next sermon:

  1. Quotes that are too good not to share, even though they have nothing to do with the main idea of your sermon. Just because you like it, don’t squeeze it in.
  2. Quotes that are not short and to the point. Two page quotes from a Puritan in old English aren’t helpful unless you are trying to help someone fall asleep.
  3. Quotes that are only an interest to a very specific audience. Just because you love reading Wallace’s Greek Grammar doesn’t mean you should quote from it.
  4. Quotes that you have to explain after you read it. It’s like a joke–if you have to explain it, it’s not funny.
  5. Quotes that can be stated in your own words easily.
  6. Quotes that are meant to carry a sense of authority, i.e., “The great theologian so-and-so says…” The Scripture should be our authority. Quotes of men may bring clarity, but they should not bear the weight of authority to prove our point.
  7. Quotes that you cannot verify or find the source. If we proclaim the truth, we shouldn’t be using quotes that may be false.
  8. Quotes that are shocking and controversial. This isn’t because they don’t work, but because they do. This type of quote might just derail your sermon if your audience does not recover from the shocking quote bomb you let loose.

Don’t Forget Who Our Real Enemy Is!

“It may help to be reminded of some of the important doctrines to which dispensationalists subscribe wholeheartedly. After all, dispensationalists are conservatives and affirm complete allegiance to the doctrines of verbal, plenary inspiration, the virgin birth and deity of Christ, the substitutionary atonement, eternal salvation by grace through faith, the importance of godly living and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the future coming of Christ, and the eternal damnation of the lost. Those who are divided from us in the matter of dispensationalism or premillennialism may remember the areas in which they are united with us. As already noted, some doctrines are more important than others, so it particularly behooves us not to cut off our fellowship from those who share similar views about these important doctrines. There are few enough these days who believe in the fundamentals of the faith, and to ignore those who have declared themselves on the side of the truth of God is unwise. Something is wrong with our circles of fellowship, sense of priority, or doctrine of unity when conservatives view fellow conservatives as the opposition party and then find their theological friends among those who are teaching and promoting error.”—Charles Ryrie, Dispensationalism, Kindle loc. 4236.

The Damage Caused by Ungodly Preachers

bear attack

“If one bid you run for your lives, because a bear, or an enemy is at your backs, and yet does not mend his own pace, you will be tempted to think that he is but in jest, and that there is really no such danger as he alleges. When preachers tell people of the necessity of holiness, and that without it no man shall see the Lord, and yet remain unholy themselves, the people will think that they do but talk to pass away the hour, and because they must say somewhat for their money, and that all these are but words of course.”

–Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor