There are some obvious things a pastor should never say to a congregation, or anyone for that matter. Things like profanity, racial epithets, and slurs.
There are also other statements that may seem innocent and harmless, but can cause scandal and division in the Church. Others will make you look silly, confuse your congregation or make it harder for them to pay attention. Here are 13 things a pastor should never say to a congregation.
What You'll Learn Today
- 13 Things A Pastor Should Never Say To A Congregation
- 1. “I heard that so and so is…” and other forms of gossip
- 2. “I’m no expert of the Bible/theologian but…”
- 3. “I can see some of you sleeping/looking at your watches”
- 4. “For those who were not here last time…”
- 5. “If you love God you will do this” and other forms of manipulation
- 6. “Those people are doomed”
- 7. “I do not agree with the deacon or bishop”
- 8. “I have always been strong in my faith”
- 9. “I hate so and so kind of people”
- 10. “I’ll try not to take too long”
- 11. “I am the leader of this church”
- 12. “I did not have much time to prepare my sermon”
- 13. “I was talking to someone and they told me…”
13 Things A Pastor Should Never Say To A Congregation
1. “I heard that so and so is…” and other forms of gossip
Gossip comes naturally to humans. We often use it as a way to connect with people around us, so it is understandable that a pastor would share a hot piece of gossip they heard from someone.
The New Testament mentions gossip several times as an ungodly trait.
Romans 1:29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips…
Don’t talk about other people’s marriages, lives, kids or anything else behind their back in Church. It is unbecoming and leads members of the Church astray (sin of scandal).
If you heard or saw something concerning a member of your church or someone you care about, approach them privately and discuss it with empathy and kindness.
2. “I’m no expert of the Bible/theologian but…”
If you are not an expert of the Bible, then what are you doing being a pastor?
This is one of the most important roles in the Church. You have been appointed a shepherd over the flock of Jesus. You have a very serious role of leading their souls to heaven.
One of the requirements of being a pastor is deep knowledge of the Bible. No one is asking you to know everything in the Bible — there’s always new revelation we can gain from the word of God. But you should be a lot more knowledgeable than the congregation.
If you say you are not an expert on the Bible, you are sending a sign to the church members that you are not to be trusted with that position. They may hesitate to come to you with their spiritual battles and problems.
3. “I can see some of you sleeping/looking at your watches”
Never call out individual members of the Church during the sermon. It’s okay to admonish the church as a whole – Paul, Timothy and other apostles constantly did it in their letters to churches.
But calling out individual people for minor things like dozing off is not right. You are really shaming people, making it more likely they’ll stop coming to church or closing their hearts to your message.
No, it’s not the devil making them sleep. They probably had a night shift or have spent the night feeding and holding a fussy infant. Empathy is one of the most important character traits a pastor can have.
Sometimes, it’s the pastor’s fault that people get bored. So before you start pointing fingers, maybe reconsider your preaching style.
4. “For those who were not here last time…”
This statement is similar to the one above in that it comes across as a judgment to members of the church. You are making people feel guilty, without even knowing why they did not show up.
This can be a big issue in a small church where everyone knows who wasn’t there last Sunday. That’s how you start losing your sheep one by one.
If you want to remind the congregation what you talked about the last time, just say what it is without calling out anyone.
Something like, “last Sunday, we discussed…” is perfect.
On the same note, don’t call out people who’ve not been in church for a long time. Your job is to make sure everyone feels welcomed.
5. “If you love God you will do this” and other forms of manipulation
You should never use God’s love, promises and blessings to manipulate the congregation into doing something.
This goes against the Bible, which says that God loves us regardless of who we are and what we do. God’s love and grace are not predicated on our works.
So it’s wrong for a pastor to tell the congregation to come to church, attend an event, or contribute to a cause if they love God or want his blessings. That’s straight up manipulation.
It’s fine to explain the benefits of doing something like attending fellowship or tithing, but don’t use God’s love to threaten people into doing it. Even if they do what you want, they won’t do it with faith.
As much as the Church is a body, each person is also on an individual journey of faith. Let them run their race and make decisions out of their faith and conviction. Your work is to guide and encourage them, not manipulate them.
6. “Those people are doomed”
I’ve sat in several sermons where the pastor declares entire groups of people to be doomed. In most cases, they are referring to sinners and unbelievers.
But I have also heard pastors declare gay people or people from another religion such as Muslims to be doomed.
For one, it’s not anyone’s place to pass judgment on others. We will all have a chance to be judged by God and either get into heaven or eternal torment.
Secondly, this is not the kind of love that the Bible commands us to show to our neighbors. Just because we don’t agree with someone’s faith or lifestyle, we don’t have the right to judge them.
A pastor saying such words is likely to foment hatred among the congregation. Instead, the pastor should be on the forefront of showing love to everyone and declaring that God loves them. Remember that we are not any more deserving of God’s love and grace than anyone else.
In any case, kindness and love are some of the best tools for attracting people to God.
7. “I do not agree with the deacon or bishop”
It’s fine and even common for disagreement among church leadership. What’s not right is displaying the disagreement in front of the congregation.
Unless there is a very good reason to do this (e.g. disagreeing with something a church leader has done that is clearly wrong), it’s best to keep disagreements within the leadership circle to avoid dividing the church.
8. “I have always been strong in my faith”
Yes, church members expect more from the pastor in terms of character and faith. That’s not to mean people think of pastors as superhuman, always strong and perfect in their faith.
Being honest with the congregation about the times you’ve felt weak, doubted God’s promises or even stumbled is a good thing.
We can sometimes be hard on ourselves when we sin or get caught in a moment of doubt. Knowing that a pastor also goes through the same things can strengthen your faith and help you stop living in regret and self-doubt.
9. “I hate so and so kind of people”
Unless you are talking about the devil, ‘hate’ is such a dark word to say in a church. We should not hate anyone, no matter who they are or what they do.
So if a pastor says they hate certain people such as adulterers, drunkards or politicians, they spread hate in the congregation.
Jesus told his disciples that they are the ‘light of the world’. That means proudly displaying the fruits of the Holy Spirit to everyone. These include love, joy and generosity. That’s the best way to attract unbelievers to salvation.
10. “I’ll try not to take too long”
I don’t know about you but the moment a pastor says this, a countdown clock automatically starts in my head.
This can be distracting especially for spiritually young believers and unbelievers in the congregation. The pastor has set an expectation that the sermon will be quick. If they then go beyond 5-10 minutes, it feels like they are taking too long.
Just start preaching without giving any expectations. If you’d planned a short sermon, go ahead and keep it short. If you’d planned a more in-depth teaching, take your time but keep it interesting.
11. “I am the leader of this church”
1 Peter 5:2-3 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
Pastors are called to be servants to the church. Using your authority to have things go your way is not in keeping with the Bible’s description of a shepherd.
12. “I did not have much time to prepare my sermon”
Again, this is about setting out expectations instead of diving right into the sermon. Sometimes, you might get a bit busy and not have time to prepare as much as you wanted.
Just don’t let the congregation know that. Some will expect a poor or rushed sermon and that’s probably how they will perceive your sermon, no matter how good it is.
If you feel you are not ready, see if someone else can preach in your place or pray to God for inspiration.
13. “I was talking to someone and they told me…”
Pastors also play the role of counselor and adviser. So they tend to talk to many people throughout the week, usually in confidence.
Sharing with the congregation what someone told you or what you talked about without their permission is absolutely wrong.
Even if you don’t identify who it is, you’ll lose the trust the congregants have in you. You’ll probably notice fewer people coming to seek your advice.