Some years back I was delighted to meet Bruce McIver of Dallas, Texas. For years people had been asking me if we were related. The last names were pronounced the same way, but Bruce spelled it wrong. He was well-known throughout the country as the esteemed pastor of the Wilshire Baptist Church of Dallas.
What put Bruce “on the map” for a lot of people, however, was the book he wrote titled, “Stories I Couldn’t Tell While I Was a Pastor.” (As with almost every other book published in the last hundred years, you can buy it on line at your favorite source. Mine is www.alibris.com.)
I’d almost be willing to bet you that every pastor who read Bruce’s book got at least two or three sermon illustrations out of it. It was that good. He followed it up with one titled “Just As Long As I’m Riding Up Front.” (I would include a couple of them here but the best ones are fairly long and involved.)
Roy Smith was a Methodist preacher a long time before they put “United” in their name. His book of “personal experiences worth retelling” is called “Tales I Have Told Twice.” Dr. Smith died in 1963, the book was published a year later, and I bought it for a dollar a few years later. In the flyleaf, I have scribbled, “The best-spent dollar!”
And now, Dan Crawford has given us his stories. “Mud Hen in a Peacock Parade” has as its subtitle:”A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven.”
Dr. Crawford is senior professor of evangelism and missions and occupies the chair of prayer (emeritus) at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has turned out 17 books over the years including “God’s Formula for Genuine Happiness” and “Giving Ourselves to Prayer.”
But don’t be fooled. In addition to being a Godly man and a distinguished professor, Dan Crawford is one funny dude. The book is proof a-plenty.
“Mud Hen in a Peacock Parade” opens with the kind of experience we preachers find ourselves in sometimes. Dan Crawford was on the program to bring the invocation at the graduation ceremonies at the University of Texas. He writes, “Graduation speeches are notoriously boring. (Cartoonist) Garry Trudeau…once said, ‘Graduation speeches were invented largely in the belief that college students should never be released into the world until they have been properly sedated.'”
That morning, Crawford decided to work into his invocation the verse of Scripture carved in stone over the door of the Main Building, visible to the entire audience: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).
In his prayer, he quoted the verse and thanked God for the pursuit of truth in which the university was engaged and also for the Truth that sets us free.
Shortly thereafter, in the middle of his graduation speech, the distinguished speaker of the day departed from his script. He said, “Now I must correct the Rev. Mr. Crawford from his prayer earlier. Truth is relative. It is not embodied in any person.”
Wow. The young minister gets a rebuke from the esteemed graduation orator. How often does that happen?
For one long moment, it bothered Dan Crawford. Then he remembered something.
He was also on the program for the benediction.
A young preacher-friend of Crawford’s had perfected his Spanish in order to bring a sermon to the congregation on his mission trip. The sermon went fine, as he stuck close to his carefully worked out script. The problem came, however, when he got into the invitation. Dan says, “He should have left the invitation to the Spanish-speaking host pastor.”
Here’s what happened….
“Confusing the Spanish word for ‘heart’–‘corazon’–with the Spanish word for ‘shorts’–‘calzones’ (often used to refer to undershorts or underwear), my friend passionately proclaimed to his attentive audience, “Jesus died for you, and tonight he wants to come into your undershorts. Many friends are praying for you to surrender your undershorts to the Lord tonight. Just step out into the aisle and move to the front, take this wonderful pastor by the hand, and let him help you invite Jesus into your undershorts.”
At this point, Dr. Crawford says, the pastor mercifully took over the invitation. The church members left the building that day having attended a service they would never forget.
“Mud Hen in a Peacock Parade” can be ordered through the typical sources or from www.hannibalbooks.com. I recommend it.
Besides, pastor or teacher, your audience would appreciate a little humor now and then.
A friend of mine quoted the inimitable Jerry Clower recently as what he looked for in a sermon: “Is the sermon biblical–and did the preacher laugh at least once?”
That works for me.