?I’ve heard so many stories over the years about faithful Christian believers in various parts of the world who have been imprisoned for their faith. But I’ve never heard about getting arrested for an illegal sermon illustration-until now.
I recently read a news story about a Wisconsin pastor who was fined for having a church member shoot an arrow across the platform as part of a sermon illustration. Apparently one of the persons attending the service protested about the danger of such an activity, and when the objector refused to comply with the pastor’s admonition to “hush,” he was removed from the church.
At that point, the unhappy parishioner called police to report the “crime,” and things moved into the justice system. Ultimately, the archer “was cited for using a missile indoors and the pastor was cited for aiding and abetting. Both were fined $109” (AP story, March 23, 2009).
Now I’m concerned because I did the same thing. A few years ago I was preaching in a college chapel on the West Coast and had a trained archer stand in the center aisle and shoot an arrow into a target on stage. (I was standing a few feet away from the target, which, in retrospect, seems pretty dumb on my part.) The target was covered with paper so you couldn’t see the rings; but later in the message I tore off the paper, and you could see the arrow right in the bullseye. It was pretty cool.
Now I’m concerned that I may be a fugitive from justice. What do you suppose the statute of limitations is for sermon illustrations? But it also got me thinking about other sermon illustrations that might end up in the courtroom. Such as:
• The time you drenched the Sunday morning crowd with a fire hose as a way of helping them “experience what it would have been like to be outside Noah’s ark after the doors were closed.”
• That time you announced the names of all the husbands and wives who have confessed unfaithfulness during counseling “as a way to help the church realize how much hanky-panky is going on right under our noses.”
• The idea you had to demonstrate the meaning of “focusing your energies” by shooting a rifle and then a shotgun and showing the different results.
• Then there was that idea you had about letting the air out of all the tires in the parking lot, as a “reminder of the importance of maintaining and protecting the good gifts God has given us.”
OK, that last one might not get you arrested. But it will probably get you fired. v

Michael Duduit is Executive Editor of Preaching magazine, and he does not endorse any of the sermon illustration ideas presented in this article. So please, don’t try them at home.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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