Every preacher has his own method for collecting, sorting, and filing sermon illustrations. Some are quite meticulous about it, referencing and cross-referencing by topic and text each illustration they encounter, placing it in a file, so that it’s waiting for them when they need it.
The problem with this system, for me, is that I can’t always determine in advance which topic will best suit an illustration. That’s because the most effective illustrations often don’t have an immediately obvious connection to the topic; your unique spin on the story makes the connection.
For this reason, when it comes to cataloguing illustrations, I think Rick Warren has the best idea:
1. Buy a bucket.
2. When you find something good, put it in the bucket.
3. When you need an illustration, rummage through the bucket until you find something that fits.
This way, when preaching on faithfulness, you’ll come across sermon illustrations that might otherwise have been labeled grace or mercy or persistence or patience, and you’ll uncover at least one that turns out to be a perfect match — in this case — for the point you want to make.