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4 Things a Preacher Should Never Do

I preached my first sermon when I was 14 so that means technically I have been preaching for over 20 years! However, I didn’t start regularly preaching until I was 19, which means that I have about 16 year of preaching experience.

In those 16 years I’ve made my share of mistakes and hopefully I’ve learned from them. Tomorrow I’ll be preaching again and I was thinking about some of the things I’ve learned not to do in my sermons.

Caleb preaching

Below are my top 4 things that a preacher should never do while he is preaching!

  • Ask for more time

Unfortunately I’ve heard this a lot, when a preacher actually asks the audience if he can take another 10 or 15 mins.  Generally the audience will say “yes” even if they are thinking “when is this guy going to finish?” My rule here is -If you have to ask for more time, that means you’ve already taken too much!

Avoid this mistake by finding out how much time you have before you get up to preach and then sticking to the time you have. It also helps to be aware of your audience, if half are falling asleep and the other half have whipped our their smart phones to check the latest news then you’d better wrap that sermon up!

  • Use someone’s mistake as an illustration

You should stay well clear of this blunder unless you’ve specifically received approval from the person who made the mistake and even then I’d think twice about it.  Making it “anonymous” doesn’t always help either, our people are smart and someone might figure out who we were talking about. You’d be wise to avoid it all together.

  • Apologize for not preparing

There are two options here: If you really are not prepared to speak then DON’T SPEAK! However, if your preparation wasn’t done as well as you’d have liked but you still have something significant that you can share, then go ahead. The Holy Spirit can use us in our weakness.  The problem with apologizing for what we are about to preach is that it gives the audience an excuse not to listen.

It is also highly disrespectful. It’s like telling your people “I don’t value you enough to prepare ahead of time and even though it will be a total waste of your time I expect you to respect me by listening to me go on about nothing for the next 40 mins.”

  • Try to “fill time”

I remember once my dad told me “When you’re finished preaching you should sit down.” That’s solid advice. Too many preachers feel like they need to “fill” the time.  As a result they ruin what could have been a great sermon if they had simply sat down when they were really finished preaching.

Some of the best sermons I’ve heard have been in the 10-12 minute range. They hit their mark dead on and then got out of the way so that it could sink in!

Question: What would you add to the list? Are there other things that preachers should never do?


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I am a pastor, missionary, and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Ukraine since 2007. God blessed me with a wonderful wife and 5 amazing children!

My greatest passion is to teach, encourage, and exhort others to turn to Jesus, who is Savior, Lord, and God!

  • Do’t make a laughingstock of your sermon. I mean some preaches use to many jokes and finaly their sermons looks like a comic show.

    • Alex, you’re right! There’s a place for telling jokes but the preacher shouldn’t be a stand-up comedian! Focus needs to be on God’s Word.

  • Kevin Brubaker

    Good thoughts on time – I was recently at the Shepherd’s conference and watched MacArthur finish his sermon a little abruptly but on time. I also knew a highly esteemed preacher who once was an interim at our church. He never once made it through all of his points, but he always finished on time.

    • I often tell the guys in our church that they are not required to finish all their points. I also tell them that it’s a lot better to finish your sermon while people still want a little more than finishing your sermon when the people are already glad to know that you are done!

  • Good advice all around. Always disliked when a Pastor berates the sound tech in the back when there is a problem (e.g. mic cuts in and out). Makes everyone uncomfortable. Hope all is well!

    • Those poor sound techs, they only get noticed when things go wrong! Thanks for commenting Vince!

  • Lee Lanier

    Great topics, great advice,; thank you !!!

  • James Oakes

    Especially in the South (USA), I think some preachers make the mistake of judging how well they are doing (or how much they think the Spirit is moving) by the emotional reaction of the audience. If the crowd is shouting “Amen!” and there is a long altar call with lots of people weeping and praying at the close of the service, then the service went well. If the people are quiet and not openly emotional, the service was dead and God did not move. They also feel like someone must pray the “sinner’s prayer”, or that proves that they are not full of the Holy Ghost. This leads to manipulative tactics, such as saying “Somebody say Amen!”. It leads quiet people to be uncomfortable and at times thought of as being carnal by others in the church when that may not be the case at all. It also leads to false conversions. We need to trust God’s promise in Isaiah 55:11. God is using his word whether we can see it or not, and we need to be careful about crossing the line and attempting to do the work of the Holy Spirit because we are trying to feel like we have done something great or we are trying to impress someone.

    • Very well put James!