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.
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!?