When sermon illustrations go awry

With all due respect to those who use them, I can not STAND sermon illustrations that use props. I always feel like my intelligence is being insulted.

But here’s a great illustration of why they’re even more dangerous than you may have thought!

A Sheboygan Falls pastor and parishioner were issued municipal citations Thursday for firing an arrow during Sunday’s service as part of a sermon illustration.

About 120 people were attending the evening service at Pentecostals of Sheboygan County, 621 Broadway, when the Rev. John Putnam had Jason Wilke, 26, draw and fire a steel-tipped practice arrow across the front of the church.

Putnam called it a “teaching tool.”

Police call it illegal.

Read more here.


When sermon illustrations go awry — 14 Comments

  1. Wow. The pastor of the church is going to seek a restraining order against the guy who complained about the stunt. That’s even more odd. Maybe it’s just as well for the whistle-blower; the church is of the Oneness Pentecostal stripe – all the better, perhaps, for him to be out of the church and into one that confesses the Trinity.

  2. So now the pastor knows the law.
    Let’s hope he learns the gospel.
    It never ceases to amaze, what circuses people attend, then think they are attending church.
    Next Sunday: Lions!

  3. This was probably a really, really bad idea, especially in light of the recent church shooting in Maryville, IL.

  4. Ahhh, but the pastor can congratulate himself on the fact that he has been “clever” and “creative.” Indeed, there are many Lutheran pastors who also want to be billed as thus clever and creative, even as there are many ecclesiastical supervisors who make it clear that they want pastors who are “clever” and “creative” — and, sadly, it all cleverly creates what are too often obstacles to the life-giving word of grace!

  5. I live in Sheboygan Falls. The church is about 5 minutes from my condo. (Ironically, the church building was formerly occupied by an LCMS congregation, who moved out to the edge of town, built a nice contemporary-designed church and are now booming in their happy-clappy ways while sister churches in Sheboygan are struggling. But I digress.)

    When I first heard about the incident, over a Milwaukee radio station, I just about had “the big one.” People were talking about it in the lunchroom at Walmart (where I work).

    I really have to wonder what kind of point (pun intended) this pastor was trying to prove in his sermon?

    Seriously, friends, stick with Law and Gospel. These kind of hijinks are clearly not needed for God to bring a sinner to repentance and faith.

  6. I doubt moving anyone to repentence was ever the point, since shooting an arrow in the sanctuary obviously brings to the minds of witnesses all sorts of thoughts–trepidation, but only about the arrow’s path; anticipation, excitement, and finally relief that it didn’t go where it shouldn’t. Christ and the cross? Not so much.
    The point was the act itself. The show. The circus.
    When church is like a show, attendance–and publicity–are like ratings.
    How repentent has that pastor appeared to be, with his subsequent restraining order? Even he didn’t get the point.
    Indeed, the arrow missed its mark.

  7. Quoting from the newspaper article:
    “Putnam said he was challenging churchgoers to be active in sharing their testimonies with others. He was elaborating on a passage that details spiritual ‘equipment’ given to Christians, such as the helmet of salvation, the sword of the spirit and the belt of truth.

    “‘I used the practice arrow just as the fact that an arrow by itself — your testimony by itself — is no good, so you have to have a bow, and the bow is that equipment,’ Putnam said. ‘And you have to have a target, and still with all that if you never pull it back and release it then it still does not accomplish its objective.'”

    Would that it would matter to this pastor that the mention of arrows in this passage (Ephesians 6) is as the instrument of the Devil in bringing affliction. Would that he would realize the only positive reference to arrows in Scripture is Isaiah 49, where the incarnation of Christ is referred to as “he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away.” (v. 2)

    Not only was this illustration a bad idea, it was irrelevant and contrary to the very text he was preaching on.

    –The Padre

  8. Putnam must fancy himself the Archerbishop of Sheboygan.

    Now Mollie, you say, “I can not STAND sermon illustrations that use props.” Tomorrow’s Gospel is John 3:14-21. I’m thinking of wearing a rainbow wig and holding up a sign that says “JOHN 3:16.” Whaddya think?

  9. So is anybody who uses the 3 year lectionary bringing a poisonous snake into the pulpit tomorrow? Now that would be a sight.

  10. Oh, ARCHERbishop, I get it.

    Hmmm, stick to Law and Gospel, Pastor. Jokes are not your thing, lol.

  11. If you people would just be like me you would have no problem with this. I am preaching on the Epistle reading from Ephesians 2. I figure I am safe with St. Paul who just uses those boring, stuffy theological concepts and abstract ideas. Although, it is quite thrilling to consider what it means to be “seated with Christ in heaven.” I thought about trying to bring a prop to illustrate that but just couldn’t quite wrap my hands around it.


  12. Our Pastor doesn’t usually have a “prop” but he had one today.

    He talked about the bronze snake on a pole which saved the Israelites who looked at it. Then he said, We have one, too, and pulled out a crucifix.
    No, it’s not the only one in the chancel, just the one in the pulpit this morning.
    [This is not a sermon review since I’m only talking about the “prop”, not the way he used it. I you are interested, the sermon will be up, audio or text, at http://stpaulaustin.org in a few days.]

  13. A few years ago I was told about a ‘clever’ sermon illustration prop for John 3:8, it involved folding a paper airplane and throwing it from the pulpit over the church. I heard about this illustration from four different people, who saw it in four different congregations, Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran and Presbyterian. Apparently their ministers all subscribed to the same pulpit periodicals.
    When I asked each of these people what the sermon was about, they couldn’t tell me. One man said “I don’t know, I just thought it was cool to throw paper airplanes in church.” Sometimes the illustration/visual aid is so clever that no one hears what you’re trying to illustrate.

  14. I agree that the “clever” illustrations can sometimes backfire! While teaching in an LCMS school some years ago, the “new” assistant pastor (trying very hard to be “cool” and liked by the kids)conducted a chapel service which certainly got their attention but failed to teach anything Scriptural. The pastor began his message to the children (grades K-8)dressed in his suit & clerical; while speaking he began removing articles of clothing because he was getting ready to go to the gym with a friend. When all was said and done, he was standing there in his gym shorts, shirt, and tennis shoes; he then proceeded to pull out his raquetball and raquet and . . . you guessed it . . . hit the ball! The ball unfortunately went up and was caught by the large ceiling fan, thus changing direction and going sideways across the large sanctuary. Did he get the kids’ attention? Absolutely! Was he successful in teaching a Scriptural lesson? Hmmm…. One of the young first-graders, when asked by her mother about chapel, replied that the pastor took off his clothes! I was a teacher, and for the life of me, I cannot remember or even imagine what the text or lesson was! Stick to the Word!
    — Church Secretary

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