Nine Distractions That Should Not Happen to the Pastor Right Before the Sermon

In a previous post, I noted several things you should not say to the pastor right before the sermon. I was amazed at the number of responses I received. One pastor made it clear that I really had not addressed many of the major issues. It’s not just what people say, it’s other things that can happen as well.

It made me realize once again the primacy of preaching. Most pastors have put in hours of study and preparation. The sermon is critical to the life and the health of the church.

Though I included some of the distracting comments people make in this list, I have also included other distractions. Please pray that your pastor does not have to experience any one of these.

  1. Personal and family problems. It is so difficult to be focused on the Word of God when the pastor is dealing with problems of this nature. Please pray for your pastor daily for protection from these types of challenges and problems.
  2. Physical problems. My son, Sam, preached a sermon, then threw up and passed out. I have no idea how he made it to the conclusion of the message.
  3. Someone who says, “I need to talk to you after the service.” Don’t say that! Can you imagine what the pastor is likely thinking the entire service?
  4. Malfunctioning equipment. Every pastor and every church has many stories here.
  5. Staff tension. This issue is of the same ilk as number one. Instead of family members, the tension or problem is with staff members.
  6. Volunteers absent. “Pastor, we don’t have enough nursery workers, and the pianist has not shown up.” True story.
  7. Unfair requests. I now have eight different stories where a pastor was asked to unclog a toilet right before the sermon. I’m not sure what to make of this pattern.
  8. Last minute requests. I was in a church two years ago where the pastor showed me a handful of written notes. All of the notes where last minute requests for him to make announcements.
  9. Criticism. Yes, it happens. Too many pastors are criticized right before they preach. Criticisms sting regardless. But these criticisms right before the sermon are major distractions.

I ask on a regular basis that you pray for your pastors. Could I also ask you to pray that there will be no distractions right before the sermon? It could make a huge difference in the message and in the church.

Let me hear from you.

Posted on May 30, 2016

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Rick Smith says on

    I had some angry folks “meet” with me on a Thursday in order to vent all their issues, including their gripe that my children were a distraction during altar time because they followed dad around as he prayed with people. Seriously. Then, their main gripe was that they had “heard” I was going to remove the pews and replace them with chairs (God forbid we get comfortable). This had bothered them for 2 years! And yet it had never been discussed or brought up by me, the board or anyone else. The next Sunday we had a guest speaker we spoke a prophetic word to the church before his message and he stated, “there is a group of people here, if they will choose to let go of the past and embrace the future, God will send so many new people to this church that you will have to remove the pews and bring in chairs in order to fit in all the new people He sends your way.” My wife almost had to pick me up from the floor I was laughing so hard! I had never said a word to that guest speaker. Unfortunately, those people never let go of the past and they are still stuck. Fortunately, God moved us on to place where there are very few/ minor distractions.

  • Chris Wiggs says on

    I try to hide out in a room before service. I spend that time praying and preparing. This keeps me from uneccesary negative interaction. The times i don’t “hide out” something bad usually happens! When I’m done preaching I deal with all the issues!

  • My pastor once had a member of the congregation come up to him fifteen minutes before service was to start and tell him, “God told me you’re not supposed to preach today.”

    *True Story*

  • Shayne says on

    These are especially challenging for church planters who often have little or no time to prepare the heart right before preaching because they help set up in a rented space. Often things go wrong, equipment is awry, requests and issues come to light, etc.

    I agree that we must work against these distractions as much as possible; however, none of life happens in a vacuum and we cannot expect that our preaching will either.

    We work diligently to obtain help by others to bear these immediate concerns, but ultimately we must rest in a sovereign God who reigns over our Sunday morning as much as any other time in our week.

    Just as we need to shepherd our people to worship God in the midst of distraction (if they can’t on Sunday they probably can’t on Monday)… So we need to ready our hearts in anticipation of what may come that we may rest on His unchanging grace both to us (as we preach) and the congregation (as they receive) the faithful product of our weeks preparation to bring the truth of Gods Word.

  • In the 60s my dad would meet with the elders about 15 min before worship to have a time of prayer. Many, many Sundays he would walk into the room and two of the guys would be talking about how great Rex Humbard was that morning – or what an amazing service Robert Schuller had on tv. Dad was totally deflated as he certainly couldn’t compete with the tv preachers. What were they thinking?!

  • I had a lady come to me 5-minutes before I was going to preach and start asking me questions about “the vine and the branch”. I simply explained to her that I did not have the time to get into a discussion about that at the moment, as I was preparing to preach. The next Sunday I had information ready for her about what she was asking about. We have a greeting time every Sunday, and usually there is only one or two songs after that before communion and then my sermon. Countless times, I’m stopped during the greeting time and told prayer requests, but if they are not written down and handed to me, I forget because I’m focused on sermon. Sundays are hard days to tell anyone in ministry anything.

  • Les Reed says on

    I had a lady ask me where my clothes were!!! To my surprise I had just worn a sweater, tie, and slacks that day. I was so upset that I am not sure what came out during the sermon. It is sad that so many get the purpose of meeting together. For her it was about what I wore more than Jesus – sad day!

  • Michael Wade says on

    First off, I guess streaking isn’t off limits. Thank goodness for that.

    I don’t think many pastors would survive ministering to men in a jail. Testing the fire alarms, “your lawyers here!” change of jump suits, lunch, cell inspection, “lock down in block 3!” the snack lady is here, the nurse is here, outdoor rec time – leave now or stay in the block for another 2 weeks…

    At times like those listed above, I always imagined how undisciplined and chaotic the crowds must have been on that mount that Jesus spoke on.

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