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!
Continue reading “7 Ways to Create a Terrible Sermon”
Our VBS theme this year: “Giving Us your Kid For 10 Hours 1 Week Won’t Overpower Your Family’s Neglect of all things Spiritual.”
Most are not shocked when kids who grew up in church leave the faith when they leave mom and dad’s house. I’ve heard statistics that like 80% of church kids leave the faith in their early 20’s.
We’re used to this news and yeah, some people are concerned about it, but most of the solutions to the problem demonstrate a lack of true concern. Usually we just double-down on what we’re already doing.
People are taught Christianity as kids; therefore Christianity is often linked in with “what kids believe.” To be an adult, someone who is sophisticated and a free-thinker, you have to depart from what you learned as a kid.
In today’s climate where atheism and materialism are considered cool and enlightened, kids flee the church. What’s rarely reported on is how many of these kids come back, especially when they have kids. I doubt the number is gigantic, but I know some who left the church for many years in their 20’s who later came back. The world holds out answers; young people try those answers. The world’s answers aren’t good; they tire of them and return to what is solid and helpful.
In all honesty, I doubt any kid is saved. I’m not saying none are, I’m merely saying I doubt they are. Kids don’t know enough. They don’t know the alternatives. All they know is what mom and dad say. They go with that and if mom and dad are playing games with faith, the kids will call them on that, blame the church, and leave what they think “the faith” is.
It is stupid to think that dropping your kids off at church will do the work for you. Kids follow the parents. Kids who leave the church generally have parents who aren’t in church much.
Continue reading “Failing Youth Ministry”
When pastors sin,
they don’t just have guilt over the sin
they also have guilt about whether they should be a pastor.
Pastors are people. Most pastors know this, but others tend to forget.
People are sinners.
Pastors are people.
Thus, pastors are sinners.
Pastors make mistakes. We have bad days. We lose our temper. We covet and lust after things we ought not. We lie here and there. We sin.
Sin is not good. Christians are at war with sin and the life of every Christian is a battle against sin. Too many Christians resign themselves to sin. “Well, Bible says we can’t help sinning, so whadaya gonna do?”
Pastors should really be taking this battle seriously. And, I believe, should have a track record of successfully battling sin. There should be a higher standard and that standard should be met regularly.
And yet, pastors are people. People are sinners. There’s a reason why grace and forgiveness are a thing.
One of the frustrations with being a pastor is that I’m not allowed to talk about my sin, and watch out if one of my sins is ever on display.
“You know, pastors shouldn’t do that. Maybe you should get out of the ministry.”
Continue reading “Your Sin and the Doubts About Whether You Should Even be a Pastor”
If you’re not doing anything else in a church, I fail to see why you should be getting married in a church.
“Would you do our wedding?”
Pastors rarely hear more terrifying words than these.
I used to do every wedding I was asked to do. But after 20 years of doing weddings and seeing the disastrous results of most of them, couples are now placed in a position of having to convince me to do their stupid weddings.
I have many bad feelings about weddings. Doing weddings is never mentioned in the Bible as a thing pastors do, nor is the church ever mentioned in relationship to a wedding.
I know some hold up marriage as a sacrament and there is good mojo from having your wedding in a church by a “man of the cloth.” But, trust me, the mojo is about as effective as going to the court house and getting a license signed.
I’ve had several couples where neither person attended church, or only one did. Again, at the beginning of my ministry I held out hopes for evangelism and getting people into church. I thought by doing the wedding the Gospel would be advanced and my church would grow.
I told many of them that they didn’t have to pay me; just come to church. They faithfully came to church all the way up to the wedding. Once the wedding was performed, poof! They done disappeared.
But I did all those weddings. They are all divorced now. Evangelistic results did not occur nor has my church grown, in fact, my church has a terrible reputation for marriage now.
Continue reading “This Pastor is Done With Doing Weddings”
The worst part about being a pastor is that I have no idea what I’m doing.
Regular people with regular jobs get performance reviews. They have a boss who tells them what to do and are given raises, promotions, or demotions based on how they perform. Even business owners can track the bottom line; the money will let them know how well they are doing.
But pastors have no bosses, at least not most. Some of you weird church hierarchy denomination people have such a thing, but alas, you’re weird. I have no performance reviews. Pastors are constantly told not to measure effectiveness by money or attendance.
So, what do I base my performance on? How do I know if I’m doing a good job?
“The spiritual growth of the people.” Oh great. And how, pray tell, does a guy judge that? And, furthermore, when a guy does judge that, boy howdy, how does he come out of that feeling like he has a clue that he’s doing anything right?
I have no idea what I’m doing.
As far as I can tell, the best way to know what a pastor should be doing is to not be a pastor. All non-pastors know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.
Continue reading “Pastors: If You Always Know What You’re Doing; You’re Probably Not Doing it Right”
The typical Christians’ ability to get a joke is a good indicator why there are no jokes in the Bible.
One entertaining thing about doing an anonymous Christian humor account on Twitter is the number of people who take me seriously. A quick glance at my timeline would demonstrate to people that I’m just making dumb jokes and an occasional point.
Yet the number of people who feel a need to correct my terrible (supposed to be kind of funny) take on pastoring, church, and Christians is quite large.
But non-humorous Christians are not just on Twitter; they are everywhere Christians are. Routinely I make jokes in my sermons. Very few jokes get a response. Maybe I’m not that funny, or maybe they’re all sleeping.
Several times people have taken issue with my sermon jokes. I said “shut up” one time in a joking manner in one of my illustrations. A family expressed their displeasure with me using that phrase and left the church not long after.
I made a joke one time about my son doing some dumb thing and how I wanted to kill him. My larger point was about the Gospel. My son might do something so bad I’d feel like killing him, but never would I feel like killing my son for a sin some other person did. I thought it was an insightful point about the Gospel. I was later lectured about promoting child abuse. These people left the church not long after as well.
On and on it goes. People need to lighten up. Here are a few quotes from G. K. Chesterton on the issue of humor and Christianity.
Continue reading “A Humorous Pastor Dealing with Humorless Christians”
I preach boring sermons to weed out the pretenders and scare off the entertain-me-now crowd. And also because I’m boring.
I really am a failure at being a pastor. The results are in: I suck at this.
When I examine how I do my job and the pathetic results I’m getting, defensiveness enters the picture. Maybe I’m not that bad. Maybe it’s this church and these people. Maybe it’s the society we live in. Maybe it’s our location and how our church is set up.
I can find spiritual sounding reasons why I get the results I get: My sermons are tough, they are in-depth. I’m probably too spiritual for most people. People can’t handle the sound doctrine I drop on them every week. They can’t bear up. It just means I’m preaching the offense of the cross and confronting sin. People hate the light! I must be throwing lots of light out there, because people sure seem to hate what I’m doing.
I will give some benefit of the doubt that this could be part of the problem. I do think I preach the cross and confront sin. I know a number of people who blatantly told me that’s why they left.
Preaching in-depth, doctrinally sound sermons is a good way to weed out pretenders, people who are there for other reasons. If our churches are massively entertaining, you don’t have any idea why people are there. At least if your church is boring, you know they’re not there for enjoyment!
I know, that’s a sick twisted way to think, but alas, it’s quite true! It’s along the lines of persecution. Persecution is a really good way to find out who is legitimate with their faith and who is playing games. Boring sermons are a safer form of persecution, and creates the same results!
But I know this isn’t the whole story.
It might just be that I suck and my sermons are boring.
Continue reading “Justifying Boring Sermons”