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10 of my worst sermon gaffes, goofs and illustrations

Greg Stier
Greg Stier

When you preach for a living mistakes are bound to be made. Sometimes it’s a sermon idea. It looks good on paper but when it passes from paper to preaching something get’s twisted. Or perhaps it’s an illustration that you think is going to work really well but it crashes at takeoff. Or maybe it’s a gaffe you made that you wish you could retract.

With this as a backdrop here is a list of sermon goofs, gaffes and illustrations that I have actually done/said/used in my preaching over the last twenty five years or so…

1. Gaffe: “We all make mistakes. We all have cracks in our armor. Pastor Rick and I have seen each other’s cracks.”

2. Illustration: Literally saying “he had one foot in the grave” at a funeral.

3. Goof: Preaching a sermon with a large price tag (that I had forgotten to remove) dangling from the left arm of my “new” suit (which I had gotten from Goodwill.)

4. Illustration: Eating a piece of hard, butterscotch candy in front of 5,000 teens while trying to make some spiritual point. I kept trying to preach while crunching the candy but my teeth were getting stuck together. Finally I just stopped and took the time to eat the whole thing and swallow it. It was 60 seconds of pure awkward.

5. Gaffe: “He had two huge tumors the size of grape nuts” (as opposed to grapefruits.)

6. Goof: On a preaching tour in India I was on stage facing the audience getting ready to preach my sermon. My interpreter told me at one point in the service, “As a guest speaker it would be good for the people to see you give in the offering.” When the priest walked out onto the other side of the large stage with a huge bowl I figured this was my cue. Getting up, I walked across the stage and dropped in a five spot. The priest smiled and nodded nervously. I walked back across the stage with everyone watching me. After sitting down my interpreter whispered in my ear, “Pastor Stier that was very good…but that was not the offering plate.”

7. Illustration: About 18 years ago I wanted to make a point to 75 teens at an event that God has given us spiritual weapons to overcome the “monsters” of fear that keep us from sharing our faith. A youth leader friend loaned me a fake gun that supposedly shot blanks. At a point in the sermon I had cued some guys dressed up in scary costumes (representing the monsters of fear) to come rushing in screaming. It was then I held up the “gospel gun” and shot in their direction. It didn’t shoot blanks after all. It was some sort of riot dispersement gun that sprayed the crowd with a cloud of mace or pepper spray or something bad. Not only that, but it backfired in my face and I immediately began to cough and wheeze…along with the rest of the audience. Suffice it to say we took a break as everyone rushed outside for air. Thank the Lord nobody got hurt (or sued!)

8. Goof: While being interviewed on a live Christian television show (that leaned Pentecostal) I was looking directly in the camera telling the story of a girl who trusted in Jesus at a Dare 2 Share conference. I saw a hand go up out of the corner of my right eye. It was the left hand of the well dressed older preacher who was interviewing me. Since he was sitting right next to me on the couch I assumed he was holding up his hand for a high five, so I turned and gave a hearty slap to his uplifted hand. It was then I realized that, as I was telling the story, he was lifting his hands up in praise to God. I suddenly realized that I had high-fived his praise hand…on live television. Everyone in the room was stunned and silent, except for the cameraman who was laughing so hard the camera was shaking.

9. Illustration: Trying to eat the guts of a bad cantaloupe while making the point that “it’s what on the inside that counts” or something like that. Oh yeah, it was in front of thousands of teenagers at a Dare 2 Share conference too. If I remember right I tried to clean off my tongue right after that with some kind of sanitized hand wipe which numbed my tongue and lips.

10. Gaffe: “Let everything that has breasts praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.”

Actually I’ve had a few worse gaffes, goofs and sermon illustrations…but some things are not fit for print.

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