7 Ways to Create a Terrible Sermon

I’ve preached over a thousand sermons in my pastoral career. I’m sure I’ve spent at least 10 hours preparing each sermon, so that would be over 10,000 hours, the supposed magic number of achieving expertise.

However, many people tell me my sermons aren’t all that great. In fact, just last week I was told my sermon was nothing more than an “emotional rant.” I’m always amazed at how awful people tell me I do my job when I think I’m doing just fine. Not great perhaps, but serviceable. Nope. Mostly trash.

So, I guess I can’t claim to be an expert on preaching good sermons, but I’m at least pretty confident in how to preach terrible ones. Here are the top seven ways to create a terrible sermon. Take it from me, a guy who knows.

1) Start with an illustration.
Get a funny story, or a story that conveys to people how hard/virtuous/sacrificial your life is. Take that thing you’d like to brag about and craft a sermon around it. Use a concordance to find a couple verses that touch on something or other that the story loosely is related to. Finish by making a couple good moral points like: read your Bible, pray more, love your neighbor, be more like me, or stuff like that.

2) Preach current events.
Let the Social Justice Warriors on Twitter guide you. “It’s a shame more pastors don’t preach about free range chickens” says Twitter. Can do! Free range chicken sermon coming up! “The church’s silence on global warming is alarming,” Twitter says the next week. No prob, Bob! Global hot air coming your way!

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Pastors: You Will Be Judged About Everything; Here’s How to Handle It

I did not enter the ministry for money or power or respect. I did it for the constant criticism of everything I do and say.
@FailingPastor

 

 

There are several pastors in my family. I saw these older men in my family get pummeled by the ministry. I did not enter the ministry without an idea of what was going to occur. Growing up in that environment did cause me to hate church.

When I attended college I stopped going to church. I read my Bible and I attended a Christian college and got a degree in Biblical Studies, so it’s not like I became an atheist or anything. I just needed a break from church.

There was a point in my second year of college where I knew I was going to be a pastor. This greatly depressed me at first, but then it made sense. I know what the church is. I know what people do in churches. I have knowledge that could be put to good use.

I discussed this pastoral idea with one of the guys in my family who was a pastor. He said. “Don’t do it. It’ll break your heart.”

He was deeply saddened by my decision. But he also said, “But I understand. If you have to do it; you have to do it.”

Unfortunately, I did have to.

The stuff I saw happen to those guys began happening to me. The same stupid problems and struggles I watched them endure became mine to endure. I knew what to expect, and wow, did the church deliver on those expectations.

I’ve been criticized for the clothes I wear, the car I bought, the house and neighborhood I live in, where I send my kids to school, saying “shut up” in a sermon, arguing a call in church softball, not arguing a call in church softball, being too legalistic, not being legalistic enough, not knowing grace, making too much of grace, every doctrinal opinion I’ve ever expressed has rubbed someone the wrong way. I was even once criticized for being seen riding my bike.

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How “Great” a Church is Bears no Reflection on How “Great” the Pastor Is

Pastors, remember: how your church is doing, good or bad, is not a reflection on how your faith is doing.
@ FailingPastor

 

 

 

Seems like every week another pastor of a large church takes a fall. At this point, heading a large church is a guaranteed fall. Perhaps it’s time we strongly consider whether large churches are healthy for anyone to lead.

Success goes to our head. We start thinking we actually had something to do with it. We constantly talk about how “God is blessing us” in our ministries, which then makes us feel like God really likes us, way more than all those pastors of pathetic churches. Next thing you know, you think you can get away with murder.

At the same time, plenty of small church pastors take falls too, it just doesn’t make the news as much. Pastoring a small church comes with its own challenges and its own threats to our pride.

Let’s face it: people are the least qualified people to lead people.

Perhaps that’s why we’re constantly told that Christ is the head of the church. I don’t know, could be.

The fact that your church is doing well means nothing in relation to how well the pastor’s faith is doing. We should admit that at this point. A church “doing well” usually just means lots of people are there and lots of things are happening. Here’s the thing: lots of people are doing lots of things at Wal-Mart too.

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Top 7 Crazy People In Church Today

That feeling when you see your church’s noted Crazy Person talking to a visitor.
@FailingPastor

 

 

There are several brands of crazy. Every church has crazy people, and I’m not one of those who say, “Everyone in my church is crazy.” Not everyone is. If everyone were crazy, then crazy wouldn’t mean anything. There are some legit crazy people out there.

You know who I’m talking about too.

There’s Crazy Politics Person, no matter what anyone is talking about, the president will be tied into it and hyper-opinionated views of politics will spew forth. If you don’t vote like they do, people will die. Fear and turmoil mark their existence. They don’t have time to set their affections on things above; they are busy saving society by voting once every two years.

There is Crazy Crazy Person who just can’t help it, they are straight crazy. Who knows what they’ll talk about: doing peyote, hitchhiking misadventures, best deals at Dollar General, how to buy elderberries off the internet, angels singing to them in the shower, I mean, you just don’t know. Because: Crazy.

There is Crazy Doctrine Person, typically male. They are absolutely sure that their doctrine is the most advanced, well-thought out doctrine ever invented. They nudge right over the line in claiming inspiration for their doctrine. They know they have it right, and “you, dear pastor, although you try, are still short of seeing what I know. Someday, maybe someday, if the Spirit is good to you, you might achieve my level. Until then I shall correct your doctrine to everyone who has ever heard you speak.”

There is Crazy End Times Person who thinks every burp from their dog is in the Book of Daniel. “The End Is Near” is the only message they have and they know exactly how near, how it will get the rest of the way here, and who will primarily be responsible for the downfall of all things (The Russians and the Catholic Church, in case you’re wondering. And Lady Gaga).

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Should Who is in the Audience Influence the Sermon?

Most of being a pastor is wondering if certain people will be there, followed by wondering why certain people weren’t there.
@FailingPastor

 

 

While preparing sermons, I often consider how certain people will react to what I’m preaching. I can see their faces. I reflect on past conversations with them and the verses that trip them up. Every person in church has issues and verses they struggle with that I’ve learned over time.

When those issues and verses come up, sometimes I want those people to be there and sometimes I don’t.

Whether they are there or not doesn’t change my sermon content; I’m no Pilate, making decisions to keep the crowd happy. But I will shift my tone or attitude and I find this to be good. I want to be sensitive to people’s true concerns without compromising the message.

I also know that many doctrinal issues have been disputed for hundreds of years. My one sermon is not going to settle the argument. As I prepare my sermons I go over how to say things in light of these people, in light of their past issues, or even on a church-wide basis and the history our church has had with these issues.

Once the sermon is preached, I anticipate the reaction those people will have to the sermon. Will they say anything to me? Will they complain? Will their life change?

Usually I’m met with silence. I got to talking to someone and so did they and then they were gone.

Then I wonder for the rest of the week if they will email or call. Then I wonder if they’ll show up to church.

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Criticizing My Sermon is Criticizing My Faith and it Hurts

My faith would be much happier without constant feedback about it from everyone and their mother.
@FailingPastor

 

 

Preaching is to be a major part of what a pastor does. I like my preaching to be personal, an extension of my faith. If I haven’t lived with it, struggled with it, or incorporated it into my life in some sense, I probably don’t preach about it.

This is good because it gives personality, emotion, and first-hand experience to the passage preached on. I think it becomes authentic and real. My sermons are not copied out of a book; they are taken from my life.

Not only does this make better sermons, it also keeps me on the road to spiritual growth. If I aint living it; I’ve got nothing to say!

The massive downside to it is that my sermons are mine. That’s me up there. That’s my heart being talked about each time. When criticism is leveled at my sermon or doctrine; that’s criticism of my faith and my heart.

It hurts to have something so personal be criticized, ridiculed, and rejected. It gets old after a while and makes a guy wonder why he keeps doing it. My faith has taken a beating since becoming a pastor. People’s opinions affect you. You may not want them too, but they do, for good and bad. Weighing their opinions against your own and God’s is a weekly battle. One I don’t always win. I imagine I’m not the only pastor who deals with this.

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You Might Want to Think Twice Before Using Your Pastor as a Job Reference

CRANKY CHURCH MEMBER: Can I use you as a job reference?

ME: Sure, if you don’t want the job.
@FailingPastor

 

 

I am amazed at some of the people who have asked me to be a job reference for them. Especially the ones where I have to write a paragraph about their character. It’s not just my phone number that no one will ever call; I have to describe who they are.

Now, in some cases, it’s an honor to be asked and I am more than happy to recommend them. These are people who have been friendly, helpful, and faithful. There is nothing bad I could say about them.

Then there are other people. People who complain about stuff, rarely show up, generally cause problems, and often post unbelievable pictures on Facebook about what they do outside of church.

I mean, what exactly do they think I’m going to say?

I’ve told my church in the past that if you use me as a job reference I will tell the truth. I wrote for one person that they rarely show up to anything and I wouldn’t trust them with any kind of real responsibility. I figure a boss should know that and someone has to tell them.

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