The Problem with Preaching– Part Seven

It is certainly true that preaching can be an act of folly if done poorly or stupidly or in a boring fashion. So it might be worthwhile to serve up a Top Ten list of things Preachers Ought Not to Do:

10. I once saw a preacher do a front flip off the pulpit into a chair below. I would say don’t try this in your home church. If you miss, you will never live it down. And what was the point. This is about as dumb as a glassblower inhaling and making a spectacle of himself :)

9. No snakes! As Indiana Jones once said— ‘why did it have to be snakes’. Fortunately for us, Mark 16.9ff. is not an original part of God’s Word, thank God. Whew. Also no drinking poison either.

8. Do not invite children to speak from the pulpit during the sermon. I ought to know. My daughter once leaped into my arms in the pulpit quite by surprise when I was preaching. You will always be upstaged by a child. I had enough sense to simply stop the sermon at that point.

7. If you are bad at telling jokes or funny stories, don’t try, especially if you can’t remember the punchline. In general, true stories told about your own foibles are o.k., but don’t make it too regular a habit. Also unless you have an good voice, no singing from the pulpit. Leave the worship leading to the worship leader or choir director.

6. No commercials from the pulpit please. Give God’s Word the time it deserves. Announcements can go in the bulletin or up on the screen, or be announced after the service. No commercials during the acts of worship please. The congregation already has too short an attention span.

5. Do not invite politicians to preach from your pulpit during an election year, or for that matter, hardly ever, unless they are also ordained ministers. I once heard a sermon by a Mayor. It was the worst, most boring sermon ever…. I’m just saying.

4. Try not to preach consecutive weeks on Ecclesiastes. Someone may go out and kill themselves as a result in a fit of depression. On the other hand, if I was forced to listen to some TV preachers three weeks running, I would badly need counseling.

3. Avoid preaching someone else’s sermon. I tried this once as a practice. It did not go well. Besides, without permission its plagiarism. I’ve known of ministers who were defrocked for this, or at least de-pulpited.

2. No stupid pet tricks from the pulpit— do not invite live camels, sheep, goats onto the platform with you. I don’t care if they are in the Bible somewhere. The pulpit is not an ark. Remember, almost every time Johnny Carson used to have the San Diego Zoo lady on his show, the animal would defecate somewhere, and not during a commercial. I did however see Rob Bell once use a goat to illustrate the scapegoat principle with the exit line ‘the goat has just left the building’. Considering that the goat could have eaten all the pew Bibles waiting to go on, it was a big risk to unveil a goat with no leash.

1. No setting yourself on fire, no changing clothes in the pulpit, no science experiments from the pulpit, no R rated video clips, no health informercials, no throwing out party favors, balloons, chewing gum, T shirts from the pulpit. The church is already a three ring circus, no need to make it four.

And finally, please do not make your wife or children or husband or neighbors or congregation members or parents the butt of any jokes from the pulpit. It’s bad form. You have to live with those people later, and you will pay dearly!

  • Sean McGuire

    I would love to see more lists like this. In West Virginia, we might have to ask preachers to quit thanking God for WVU wins from the pulpit, though the wins are rare now. Anyway, the whole series on preaching was excellent — practical, yet intellectually engaging.


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