7 Ways to Kill a Sermon (And Annoy the Congregation in the Process)

February 25, 2014

There is nothing better than hearing a servant of God who is spiritually endowed and scripturally engaged.  However, there is nothing worse than hearing a preacher who is bitterly employed and carnally enraged.  I have heard both…perhaps, over the years I have, regrettably, been both.

I have been in services and heard humble men of God who unintentionally took the congregation into the celestial seating of heavenly cathedrals.  They had no agenda, made no performance, and had no desire but to please Christ. However, I have also been in services and heard haughty men of God who intentionally drove the parishioners in the other direction, or at least out the vestibule door.

Preaching is an unusual beast.  When it is disciplined, meek, and courageous, it has the power to radically transform lives.  But when it is released like an untamed savage its primary goal is survival, thus eating everything in its path.

Here are some surefire ways to absolutely kill a message and annoy the congregation in the process.


1. Fail to Prepare. 

I personally would not want a surgeon working on me who hasn’t spent some time in preparation and training.  Should the work of God require any less?  When we try to “wing it” we may be jumping off a cliff without the right equipment.  Intellectual preparation is necessary and required when it comes to preaching, but above and beyond mental readiness is the preparation of the heart.  When head and heart are in sync with the Spirit of God, we are on our way to a better sermon.


2. Enter the Pulpit with the Wrong Spirit. 

Let’s not be hyper-critical here, people do this in every area of life.  Some enter the office with the wrong spirit while others enter the kitchen with the wrong spirit.  To assume the man of God never does this is somewhat unrealistic;  he is human.  However, when a preacher does it, it is more obvious and hurtful.  There is nothing worse than a bitter, jealous, discomfited preacher who mounts the pulpit in a spirit of rage.  Yes, there are times when we must confront issues and resolve problems, but never with a spirit of animosity or resentment.


3. Seek Glory for Yourself. 

God allows us to use His pulpit, preach to His people, and proclaim His Word; but mark it down: He will never do so at the expense of sharing His glory.  It’s a wicked notion to give God the glory for something with an expectation of Him paying us a commission on the side.  When a man brings all attention and adoration to Himself, His aim is devilish and sensual.  His sermon may receive applause down here, but it has no eternal affect up there.


4. Repeat the Same Thing 50 Times During the Course of Two Hours. 

My homiletics professor taught a simple rule in regards to style and presentation: One, tell them what you are going to say; two, tell them what you are saying; three, tell them what you just said.  It is true, repetition is the key to knowledge; however, when you repeat yourself over and over and over again during the span of two hours, you might as well walk away from the pulpit, everyone else has.


5. Have an Agenda Outside of the Scriptural Context. 

Preaching involves us reading out of the text, not us speaking into the text.  The congregation will easily lose their bearings if you preach on the current political state of affairs from John 3:16.  Let your agenda be God’s agenda, and find God’s agenda within your passage of Scripture.  There is enough meat and ‘taters in each sentence without you having to come up with something on your own. God has a prepared table in every jot and tittle of His Word.


6. Embarrass People. 

It’s a good idea to get someone’s permission before you include them in an illustration or story, especially if the story is personal.  When you embarrass others, those around them get embarrassed as well.  Be cautious and considerate of personal situations, and refrain from deliberately rude remarks.  This is a guaranteed sermon killer, and possibly a preacher killer depending on who you embarrass.  Just because you’ve watched some hot-head do it on YouTube doesn’t mean it will bode well for your ministry.


7. Make No Mention of Christ. 

Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, said, “I take my text and make a beeline to the cross.”  No matter where you preach, what you preach, or how you preach, your preaching should be to the ultimate glory of Christ.  Anything less than Christ is a letdown; anything more than Christ is an impossibility.


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