Ten Things a Pastor Should Never, Ever, Say from the Pulpit

We’ve all experienced that strange, sickening, gut-wrenching feeling. It’s that nausea of the soul that creeps in after you realized that you just blurted something you shouldn’t have blurted. Preachers, because they regularly speak to a lot of people, are a high risk group for this experience. Here are ten of those things that preachers should never say from the pulpit.

1.  ”This election, you should vote for…”

You’re a pastor, not a political pundit. As we cruise towards this fall’s politicking and campaigning, keep preaching the Word. Biblically-informed decision-making will arise from teaching the Bible, not telling people who to vote for.

2.  ”Let me tell you a funny story about my wife [kid, husband, ex-girlfriend, whatever...].”

Personal stories about other people (especially without their consent) are generally a no-no. I am referring here to those stories which may cast a poor light on someone else’s character, even if it’s “funny.” Oh, and never should you say, “By the way, this week is my wife’s 52nd birthday.” Do it, and you’re going to be sleeping on the couch for the next five years.

3.  ”C’mon! Can I get an amen?”

If you are a pastor who receives heart “amens” that’s great. But do you really need to ask for them? Usually, this is a signal for the sleepy congregation to begrudgingly offer a vocal affirmation over a statement that the pastor thought was particularly good. It’s almost like saying, “Now that, dear folks, was really good. Please vocally affirm it to me, using Christian language so it doesn’t seem like I’m asking for personal accolades.” All this amen requesting can descend into self-congratulatory ego-stroking. Avoid it.

4.  ”God wants to punch you in the nose!”

Sadly, I’ve heard it before. Variations on this theme are, “God’s gonna give you a spanking!” or “God’s out to get you!” You may have a desire to assert your manliness or to teach the concept of judgment, but you don’t need to call down threats of  God’s boxing skills. It’s theologically misguided, and downright mean.

5.  ”#$@*!”

Here we have the problem of the cussing pastor. Rather than explaining all the reasons why pulpit swearing is not a good idea, just don’t. Don’t do it. ‘Nuff said.

6.  ”Like that scene in the movie, Piranha 3DD.”

So maybe everyone has seen the gory, sexualized, profanity-ridden, R-rated movie. Is it worth your mentioning that you’ve seen it, too? Maybe you have the “strength” as a Christian to engage in such viewing, but remember there are people who may stumble at such knowledge. Read Romans 14 and  see if you’re still willing to talk about that movie scene you saw last week. [Author's disclosure:  I have not watched Piranha 3DD, nor do I intend to do so. I merely used it as a representative example."]

7.  ”Well, folks, I haven’t had time to prepare for a sermon this week. Open your Bibles to…uh…Genesis 1… and we’re going to see how it goes.”

How about discrediting yourself and your sermon from the get-go? If you haven’t had time to study for your sermon, you have a few options:  1) lengthen the song service, 2) shorten your sermon, or 3) call for an impromptu “Testimony Sunday.” Do not, by all means, drone on about something you have not prepared or studied for. The results could be disastrous. And, by the way, try to fit in a few hours of preparation next time.

8.  ”The seventeenth point starting with a ‘B’ in this passage is…”

Maybe, just maybe, you’ve found seventeen points in Ezekiel 5 that start with the letter “B,” beginning with “Beautiful Bountiful Blessings of the Bald.” (Read the passage; it’s in there.). If that’s the case, feel free to write a book, blog post, or pamphlet about it. Don’t try to preach seventeen points, especially if they all start with the same letter. People can only remember so much stuff.

9.  ”I’m the pastor around here, and I…”

You may very well be the pastor. You may wish to make an important decision. You may even be allowed to make such an important decision. It is unwise, however, to assert your positional authority in a public setting to make a power move. Such behavior is ill-befitting of a shepherd.

10.  ”Now, I’m just about done.”

That’s a lie. No matter how close you think you are to being done, you’re not going to finish as soon as people want you to. (Did that make sense?) Usually, this statement is spoken not once, but four times, often when the speaker is nervous, rushed, or hungry. Rather than draw attention to the fact that it’s 12:43pm, go ahead and finish things up as soon as possible.

Now I’m just about done, but I wanted to make a final statement. If you are in a situation of public speaking, you’re going to say something wrong at some point, which reminds me of a funny story about my kids… Just be careful, prayerful, and conscious of your role as a messenger and teacher. Can I get an amen!?

10 Responses to “Ten Things a Pastor Should Never, Ever, Say from the Pulpit”

  1. sonnque June 14, 2012 at 6:08 am #

    ” Can I get an ‘AMEN’. “…..lol!

  2. JCB June 14, 2012 at 6:08 am #

    Just a tad of a critical tone in this article. Always consider your audience. Follow God’s lead, not some formula that says “never do this”. That aside – a good reminder to be aware of the more idle things that can come out of our mouths as leaders.

  3. Tim VanLandingham June 14, 2012 at 7:02 am #

    Wow!
    You really hit the nail on the head. Those ten things are certainly no-no’s. God has used thirty years of ministry, twenty-three of those being in the pastorate, to continually remind of those truths of public “servant leadership”. Share Faith, please keep on with your quality work. Thank you!

    In the Matchless Name of Jesus,
    Tim VanLandingham, Pastor
    Pavo Baptist Church, Pavo, GA

  4. Thierry Gation June 14, 2012 at 7:34 am #

    Amen!!!
    Very informative and hilarious!!
    This is a new one added lately that I have heard, I’m preaching better than you’re saying, “amen”. To much flesh on the pulpit, not enough abasing that God may increase in the messenger. Have we result to using Church colloquialism rather than preach according to the utterance of the Holy Spirit, its God’s message not your own. You don’t draw anyone to yourself, or to Christ. If Christ is lifted up, He draws all men unto Himself. There’s to much entertaiment, not enough edification.

  5. Bob June 14, 2012 at 7:48 am #

    I am tired of hearing pastors us euphemisms in their sermons “Gosh,” “darn,” “Golly,” etc. I have heard even some of the “elite” preachers using this kind of language.

  6. Pastor H. Roshell June 14, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    I like this post! Did get ALL of them, but I do want to comment on one or two things. Amen! Amen is one name given unto Jesus… as to state “He is the truth” and are as an agreement to something in the word (the bible) “being true”! This meaning must be a part… OK; should be a part of every church teaching. My asking the congregation is NOT for my own “self-congratulatory ego-stroking”… but is part of our church understanding (make-up)of God’s given word is “true”.

    It’s not as must as for “affirmation” as it is for confirmation! I can only speak for myself and have a problem with this part… “Please vocally affirm it to me, using Christian language so it doesn’t seem like I’m asking for personal accolades”. When making an open ended statement… it puts “all pastors/teachers/ministers and or anyone asking for the body to be on one accord, in a box.

    Now #7 I totally agree with, because I’m guilty! Not so much from the pulpit, but during a Sunday school class… but not from the pulpit. Yes; I know It’s still have the same effects. Thanks for this reminder!

    Some of them, I don’t totally get and other I do! But thanks for the insight! It’s always good to see what we can improve on or just change the way we do things.

    God bless!
    Pastor Roshell

    • daniel June 14, 2012 at 9:44 am #

      Good points, Pastor Roshell.

      Perhaps it wasn’t clear in the article, but there is nothing wrong with “amen.” There is nothing wrong with people declaring “amen” to the preaching of the Word. There is nothing even wrong with a pastor or worship leader requesting congregational participation with the formula, “And all God’s people said…’Amen’ (1 Chronicles 16:36).

      The problem, I think you’ll agree, is when a pastor virtually solicits such praise. Obviously, nothing is wrong with the “amen” part of amenning. The problem comes when a preacher grasps such praise (c.f. Galatians 1:10), and cloaks this self praise in the garb of Christian jargon.

  7. Bruce June 14, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    Fantastic. Ten points for my next sermon. Maybe I can get them all to start with “B”.

  8. Ade July 19, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    Well in truth Amen is a positive affirmation simply meaning so be it. This is ok to say as long as members are prompted to say it by the holy spirit, but I do understand where you are coming from.

    It does seem that some ministers have literally adopted that phrase as a mode of seeking some sort of confirmation or approval to what was or being said even though it may not be necessarily prompted by the spirit to the church but by the flesh and self seeking.

  9. flexi September 15, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

    amen

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