God’s Grace in Our Worst Preaching Mistakes

It is a homiletical balm to hear of other preaching goofs, where pastors just blow it with a sermon or illustration and, yet, God graciously still produces fruit. I’m sure many of you can relate and provide stories that get belly-laughs every time you tell them. In this video Matt Chandler, Mark Dever, and James MacDonald share three of their most harrowing preaching moments.

Pastors and Bible teachers, let’s be thankful that God faithfully works in us to fulfill his purposes, despite our imperfect efforts.

  • http://www.transformingwords.org/wordpress Don Sartain

    Hahaha, only Chandler, lol. I love that guy, so grateful to have him as a pastor.

    Thank you guys for sharing so candidly about moments that make the rest of us believe that you’re actually human and not an icon of perfect communication.

  • Todd

    Is that the “worst” they have? Not too bad, really.

    I could talk about the time I was speaking from Joshua 7 about Achan taking some of the plunder from Jericho. Only I didn’t use the word “plunder” but a common synonym, “booty” and I said it this way, “Achan went to Jericho, got himself some booty and brought it back to his tent.”

    Sadly, I didn’t even realize what I said though I could see from what was happening in the crowd that I had said something wrong. Thirty seconds after the service was over, one of the young adults in our church let me know.

    That was our Saturday night service. Needless to say, I used the word plunder the next morning and no recordings of the Saturday service were kept.

  • Bill

    Like James said, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking” (Prov 10:19). Sometimes it just doesn’t come out like it sounds in your head, especially if you preach a lot…I feel so sorry for this guy… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrFHNuA1mvM

  • http://matthauck.typepad.com Matt Hauck

    Aww, man, Mark’s is absolutely hilarious. Thankful for these men and their humility. =)

    One time I was presiding a wedding (in Taiwan) in Chinese and instead of “Welcome to this wedding (婚禮)”, it came out sounding like “Welcome to this divorce (離婚)”! =O

  • Ronnie

    I love these videos. Very encouraging.

  • http://www.cabotbible.com Rob

    They got nothin’ :-)

    I once intended to say that believers were repositories of God’s grace, but actually said believers were suppositories of God’s grace!

    Even though this will never, ever be forgotten by those who heard it, and it took a while for us to regain our composure, thanks be to God that the truth I was teaching is also remembered. I could not preach if I did not believe in the power of the Holy Spirit.

  • Dustin Lair

    I once said erection rather than resurrection on Easter Sunday. Needless to say,it was humiliating. It happened to be in the first 30 seconds of the sermon so I had to go on. We also baptize in a watering trough and after the sermon I backed up, tripped and fell right into it.

    Top that.

    • http://www.murrysvillechurch.com PK

      I love you, brother. You made my week.

    • R

      Can we get a “like” button?

    • http://www.renewdc.org Chuck

      That would be enough to make me start sprinkling

  • Chad H

    I wasn’t exactly preaching, I was teaching junior high students in a Christian school setting about the fruit of the Spirit and how people will know us by our fruit. As an experiment we were going to leave the classroom and demonstrate these fruits of the Spirit with people we encountered. Well instead of sticking to Biblical language, I told the students to “Go show off your bananas.” As you could imagine the junior high boys were dying and the girls were horrified.

    Second incident. Also teaching junior high students. We were talking about animals that defied evolution, one being a whale. Students came up with the idea that we could go to the elementary students, dress up like animals, and teach them about God’s creation. So I told one student “You could dress up like a whale and blow stuff out your hole.” Again, students were dying.

  • http://thatishouldgain.wordpress.com Matt Gladd

    I am a young pastor of a small, predominantly older congregation. I will say that I have not been in it long enough to have a record of preaching gaffes to draw upon. Though, humor is one of my strengths and can be very helpful in preaching when trekking through a text or speaking on something that might be exciting to you, but is perhaps less exciting to those who don’t spend their spare time reading things like Bavink, Calvin, or the church fathers. I’ve found that when I first arrived at this church it seemed a little stiff on Sunday mornings and when I would say something that most people would find humorous, all I get is mouth open blank stares. Then, I’ve even gotten to where I actually tell people it’s okay to laugh in church, humor is alright. Then, there will be a brief moment of half-smiling, then back to the blank expression-less faces. You get used to those faces, but it kind of catches you off-guard when you’re new to the pulpit and find that often no matter what you say people are just going to look like that, lol. Makes you feel bad for tvs which get to see faces like that on a more regular basis than preachers. ;)

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  • http://www.murrysvillechurch.com PK

    These are so tame. I think you should interview Dustin Lair. I nearly peed myself with laugher, after hearing his goof. Dustin, whoever you are, God bless you.

    • Dustin Lair

      Thank you! I am glad my suffering can be used for good.

  • http://remnantlegacy.wordpress.com/ Tony Cruz

    Haha. This is all great stuff! It’s incredibly encouraging to hear these things. It helps me to remember that God is the BEST communicator in all of history and can work with me, so long as I am diligent in preparing and honoring His Word. Thanks TGC!

  • http://www.thelowercase.wordpress.com stephen cavness

    while speaking in front of a few hundred people, i went on an extended rabbit trail about how we all need to be honest about our sexual immorality…. except that i was informed later that i had been saying “immortality”.

  • Jeff

    Those were pretty mild, to be honest. In fact the debate over child depravity, while central Calvinist theology, is still on going and not quite so obvious as Mr. Chandler thinks (ask Ben Witherington & N.T. Wright). It’s actually a greater Faux Pas for Mr. Chandler to speak so mockingly and arrogantly about those women! That’s what he should be embarrassed about!

    I have some from friends. One older, distinguished preacher was talking about how Lot “pitched his tent” toward Sodom. But, he said, “Lot pinched his tit” – then tried to correct it and said it three straight times. Truth. That’s a mistake!

    • Andy

      I did not perceive Chandler to be speaking mockingly or arrogantly about the women in his anecdote, although he made it clear he thought they were mistaken.

    • Michael

      Jeff, did you not see the youtube video posted in an earlier comment? I wouldn’t describe him as older or distinguished but it is still funny.

  • Steve Galt

    In some ways these are sort of light-hearted mistakes. Our more serious mistakes are when we preach God’s word in such a way that we miss the point of the text. When we fail in our exegesis (assuming we take the time to exegete the text, which many preachers do not) and then preach a big idea that is not derived from the text, we empty God’s Word of it’s power. That is the most serious kind of preaching error.

  • http://www.squarepeggedness.wordpress.com Rachael Starke

    Paging Tim Keller……;)

  • Shimano6000
  • http://www.heritagefellowship.net Jeff Hensley

    My wife and I befriended a Mormon elder who was a mortgage lender we had used to do a couple of loans. Over time he decided to start coming on Sundays and checking out our church. For several weeks he was there, and then this one morning I was giving a message that was one of those particularly moving ones. The mood was right, tears were being shed, it was time to present the gospel, and this guys eyes are GLUED on me. I’m thinking, “We got him! He’s gonna get saved this morning!” So I’m really pressing in at the end in my presentation of the Gospel, and just as its about to hit its crux, right as I’m about to ask people to open their hearts to the Lord I say, “If you’ve never given your life to Jesus, then maybe this is why you are here this mormon.” Obviously I meant to say “morning”. My wife was sitting next to our friend and about had a heart attack! Unfortunately, he didn’t give his heart to Christ that day. We laughed about it with him later, but he did soon stop coming. However, he contacted me this very week in fact and said he was going to come by again! Pray for me!!! I’ll need it, clearly!!!!

  • http://www.heritagefellowship.net Jeff Hensley

    I also once accidentally described marriage as a “beautiful union between to men” and had no idea I said it at all. Someone alerted me after service. And one poor guy who didn’t know me thought i was serious and got up and left! Thankfully one of our elders chased him down, explained, and he came back in.

    I could keep going…. there’s more! haha

  • Francisco Munoz

    these are all tame stories…my dad was preaching on sin one day and this woman became so angry that she threw a shoe at him. Luckily she missed and left but she forgot her shoe and never came back for it.

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  • http://www.thewayeverlasting.com JS Park

    Matt Chandler’s story was hilarious. It’s always weird when people raise their hands during a sermon.

    Once on the way to church I ran over a squirrel and totally killed it. I tried to turn it into a sermon illustration about sin (can’t even remember how I did that) and it was a disaster. Everyone just about called me a murderer. Fortunately I called myself out in the middle of the sermon so we could all agree how stupid I was. The best damage control is to laugh at yourself.

  • Rob

    Hang on… they end with ‘God uses preachers who make mistakes’ but how did He use those mistakes? maybe they could have talked about that…

    sounds pretty pointless just talking about all the times you stuffed up… it’s pretty clear to most that preachers get it wrong sometimes…

  • http://danstaifer.com Dan

    There needs to be more videos like this. Maybe then, we wouldn’t idolize these guys some much and see that Jesus really does use us fragile jars of clay for his glory. As a preacher, this was of great comfort.

  • MatthewS

    Thanks! You can learn a lot by listening to guys chat about real-life experiences like this.

    I notice that each of these guys is aware in the moment of how their audience is responding. It sounds so obvious but in the heat of the moment it’s so easy to get caught up in what you are saying and forget to tune in to the messages that the people in front of you are actually sending and receiving in the present moment.

  • http://www.churchfurniturepartner.com Church Chair Guy

    I loved Chandler’s story.