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!
3) Get excited.
Being excited is a sure way to botch your sermon. Your words will tumble out in disorder. Your throat tightens, resulting in a higher pitch voice that sounds like you’re screaming. Your emotions will be taken as anger rather than excitement and all the graying cat ladies will not know how to deal. Passion in the pulpit is a surefire way to blow it.
4) Spiritualize the text.
In the off chance you actually reference the Bible in your sermon, make sure to spiritualize the text. Make it mean whatever you want. Invent secret codes and numerologies. Make sure everyone knows you are the only one with the secret decoder ring that can make sense out of it. “Take my word for it; this is really what Jesus meant.”
5) Proof text your way to failure.
Never deal with the context of a verse. Use a concordance to bounce around from one phrase to the next to make the Bible appear to agree with every opinion you’ve ever had. Take just one word, like liberty, and go to town. Liberty this and liberty that. Liberty it up. Just make sure you never get around to saying what biblical liberty actually is. Preaching through a book of the Bible is right out.
6) Copy others’ sermons.
Preaching your own content is hard work. You actually have to understand the Bible and stuff. In today’s busy society, who has time for that? Plenty of other “pastors” have created content you can use. Just repeat their words. Sure you have no idea what you’re talking about and won’t be able to answer any questions, but hey, you’ll get another sermon done and next Sunday is just around the corner! Better hit up that Google again.
7) Attack the party line.
Every church has stuff you’re not allowed to say, verses you can’t use, and doctrinal stances you can’t take. If you truly want a sermon that bombs in the reviews, use those verses and take those doctrinal stances! Don’t do it with patience, but unload it all in one sermon. Attack! Charge! Your sermon is going to suck anyway, might as well go out guns blazing. Stick it to them. Treat your audience as the enemy and go, fight, win!
I’m quite confident that these seven tips will help you preach some terrible sermons. Remember: “terrible” is in the ear of the hearer. There are many ways to be terrible. Trust yourself. Don’t just stick to these seven tips. You have a giant reserve of terrible ideas in your own head!
Explore those ideas. Take them out for a spin. Let those crazy, wild horses run, my friend. Explore the infinite avenues, for all roads can lead to Terrible. Don’t shy away from the challenge. You can do it. I believe in you. Those cat ladies won’t know what hit em!