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Use surprise, illusion for memorable worship

SUMMARY: Pastors and leaders hope worshippers will go home with a message. How can you make your message touch congregants’ hearts and minds? How can you breathe the spirit into their souls, energizing and inspiring them? 

Try incorporating illusion and surprise into your worship to tell a story, illustrate a point, or simply serve as a visual memory of the service.

Put out the trash. 
Next Sunday, place a trashcan on the altar or at the front of your church. Your congregation will wonder why it is there. Did someone leave it by mistake? The pastor doesn’t mention the “elephant in the room” until the sermon, leaving the congregants to hang on every word for an explanation. Inside the trashcan is the next step —a toy, money or maybe even real trash to illustrate sin. The point is to use a surprising, unusual or outlandish object to build suspense, create metaphor and draw people into the sermon.  

A bag, an apple and an orange. 
BellaOnline’s Joanna Stewart shares a Gospel magic trick that illustrates the biblical truth of the life-changing power of Jesus. You need a small paper bag, an apple and an orange. Behind the scenes, cut the peel off the top of the orange. Then cut the peel straight down the middle. Slide your thumb under the peel and remove it carefully. A big navel orange is the easiest to peel. Wrap the orange peel around a small apple so it appears to be an orange. You may need a little glue. In front of your congregation, show that the paper bag is empty and show your “orange.” Put the “orange” in the paper bag; then read 2 Corinthians 5:17, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” Reach into the paper bag and grab only the apple. Show the apple; then crush the bag (with the orange peel inside) to show its “emptiness.” It may take a little practice, but the effect is well worth the biblical lesson.

Box, notebook and Christmas. 
Even though it is February, think about carrying the Christmas message all year long. Have congregants write on individual pieces of paper the blessings that happen to them throughout the year. Invite them to deposit the notes in the “Christmas” box in the church. During Advent and Christmas, open the box and share as many blessings as possible during a worship service. Take all the blessings and share in a booklet, online or every week in the bulletin.

Up in the air. 
For a colorful way to illustrate ideas, tape one or two small words from a Scripture lesson on balloons. Use a rented helium tank (from a party store) to inflate the balloons, add the message tags and tie the balloons near the altar or along the pews. As the pastor reads the Scripture verse, have a volunteer pop a balloon to illustrate your point. Don’t pop all of the balloons; give them to children and adults as they leave the church.

Create a list of characters connected to biblical themes. Put the character’s name on a postcard and deposit it in a small basket or other container. Have a volunteer (this is great way to involve children and adults) draw a paper and act on it. For example, if the character is “donkey,” the volunteer pretends to be a donkey in the Bible. Children could be the “actors” and adults could teach them the Bible story or anecdote that best reflects the character. Just like traditional charades, the first person to guess the right answer gets to act out the next word. It will keep the congregation involved and interested, and lead to laughter and fun.