Seven Sentences That Make Pastors Cringe

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I love the fact that the community of this blog is growing with pastors, church staff, and laity. The latter category, laity or church members, has been very receptive to many of my posts and suggestions. A church member from Virginia recently told me at a conference where I was speaking, “I read your posts because I learn things I would have never known from the perspective of the pastor.” The lady who said that is now the leader of the intercessory prayer ministry of the church, a ministry that includes specific intercession for her pastor.

It is in that spirit that I offer these seven sentences. My purpose is simply to convey information you might not have considered otherwise. Many pastors hear these sentences frequently, even though the church member may think his or her comment is both novel and helpful.

  1. “I heard a podcast pastor preach on the same text. Let me tell you how he dealt with it.” The pastor often receives this statement as, “Let me tell you how good preaching actually sounds.”
  2. “We believe we should pay the pastor as low as possible to keep him humble.” Of course, that church member rarely wants to practice the same humility.
  3. “Our church is big enough. We don’t need any more new members.” Perhaps the church should place a sign outside saying. “Closed for business. No longer practicing the Great Commission.”
  4. “I wish I had your schedule.” Translation: “It must be nice to work only one day a week.” Sigh.
  5. “I love you pastor but . . .” The pastor knows the purpose of that statement is not one of love, but everything that follows the “but.”
  6. “People are saying . . .” This sentence is the ultimate cop-out statement. It is a cowardly statement. The church member attempts to hide behind the anonymity of “people” when the member usually is the real source of the statement.
  7. “I was here before you came here. I will still be here after you leave.” This statement is ultimately a threat. “Don’t make any changes that I don’t approve. I am in charge. Don’t even try to lead.”

Sometimes these statements are said with malice. Other times they are said out of ignorance. But almost all times they are painful to the pastor.

Be a source of love and encouragement for your pastor. Please avoid these seven and similar sentences.

Posted on November 12, 2018


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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52 Comments

  • Christopher says on

    All of these sentences, and I’ve heard most of them, are symptomatic of the fact that the modern American church is not a New Testament church. It is nothing but a corporate institution built on personality and marketing.

    This is not about throwing Millennials under the bus. I would say this started in the 50’s or 60’s and has mirrored American society. While discipleship may be given lip service, churches are only interested in creating new customers or keeping the old customers happy. Traditional vs contemporary is nothing more than mom&pop store vs Walmart with a Christian façade. What the American church desperately needs is persecution, to share in the sufferings of Christ and strip away the corporate model that has created a massive industry that has no basis in the Bible or power in the Holy Spirit.

    • Wow! That is an interesting commentary. I wish I could say there was no truth to it.

    • I’m with you. I fear that evangelicals in general and Southern Baptists in particular have created their own version of the “prosperity gospel”. If your church is small and can’t afford all these modern gadgets and widgets, then people assume you must not love Jesus very much. I agree that it’s not just a millennial problem. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are often just as bad.

  • Some I would add to the list:

    When preaching a Christmas sermon, I focused on the fact that the Christmas story has little meaning unless we understand the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and why he came. A woman came up to me afterwards at the door and was livid. She said, angrily, “You took the baby Jesus out of Christmas!” My response, “I put Christ back in it!”

    Another comment that I will hear from time to time (though rarely) is something along this order: “George should have been here to hear that sermon.” In comments like these, they do not see that they are part of the issue.

    One that I hear frequently, that I feel somewhat unsure of, is the cliche, “Nice sermon, pastor.” While appreciate the encouragement, I do wonder what is meant when a sermon is “nice.” Hopefully, my messages are more than a warm glass of milk.

    Occasionally, I will get someone who didn’t like the sermon (see the Christmas example above) and they will voice their displeasure. Quite frankly, there are sermons of mine I don’t like either. The Biblical truths contained in them are too convicting and the text is speaking to me as to where I need to grow.

    In light of these comments, there was one comment that I did like. In fact, in 37 years of preaching the Word, I’ve only experienced this comment once. A woman, lovingly, complained that my 25 minute sermons were too short! Unfortunately for me, she died of a heart attack and went to be with the Lord. Yet, I rejoice that she is praising God in the heavenly places!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Yep. The nice sermon (or sometimes “nice talk”) gets to me too.

    • Reminds me of a “Beetle Bailey” comic strip where Beetle and Killer were leaving the chapel after a Sunday service. Killer told the chaplain, “You really zinged them with your sermon this morning!” After they left, the chaplain said, “Why do the ones I’m really trying to zing always say ‘them’?”

  • Where is “I pay your salary.”? I’m not a pastor, but that one is not too nice.

  • Josh Reimann says on

    I’m a bi-vocational pastor (full time teacher, part time pastor at a church plant). Being BV is hard work but I love it. I cringe when people say they can’t do something because they’re busy. We live in a society where everyone is busy. That can’t be an excuse anymore!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Well said, Josh.

    • Cheryl Smith says on

      I’m not a pastor, but am very involved in various church ministries as well as different community organizations, have gone back to school part-time and have a teenage daughter with a busy schedule and no drivers’ license. I have a heart to serve and help anywhere I can with the gifts I’ve been given and the result has been an inability to say “no” and frequent cycles of burnout, resting, and then going at it again. It also has meant generally neglecting my home and family (thankfully my daughter’s dance schedule is forcing me to put her first and we’re having lots of meaningful conversations while in the car 😀 ).

      I mention all this to humbly ask that we all be careful with this mindset. I’ve often had it myself, but then I stopped, looked at myself and realized “What makes me think they should carry the same load I’ve (foolishly) chosen to carry? I have no boundaries. They do.” Yes, some people use busyness as an excuse, but I don’t know all the details of everyone’s lives to know if that’s the case or not. I have to leave it up to the Holy Spirit to convict them if they can and should do more, not me.

  • I haven’t pastored a church since 2007. I will always have 1, 3, 4, 5 ringing in my ears. Have felt more appreciated on the mission field, where i have been since then. Pastors give their lives to serving the church and many times are some of the most under-appreciated people in ministry.

  • Pastor “Insert the name of the former pastor (AKA The World’s Greatest Pastor)” did it this way.

    Living up to the unrealistic expectations of the good-ole days is impossible.

    BTW, good-ole days is a combination of a good imigination and a bad memory.

  • #6…sometimes one’s a crowd. When that line is pulled out, it’s a conversation-stopper for me until I get further clarification on who “people” are.

  • Brian Downs says on

    I’m shocked…. “Great sermon pastor!” didn’t make it? I always reply with, “what part of God’s word touched your heart?”

  • Hmmm #6 I actually appreciate no
    matter the source. Sometimes a few folks or more has indeed had you for dinner and 1 person felt the need to let u know of a potential land mine, even if they helped set it!

  • Mark Smith says on

    #3maybe the church needs a vacancy/no-vacancy sign. When full, just flip the switch to no-vacancy.

  • I am an associate pastor and have heard all of those statements my entire time as a pastor. They wear on you quickly. I am not sure if I should share this simply because I don’t want people to come up with new statements

  • Jean E Edmister says on

    To #7 I might be tempted to reply: Yes, but if I am here when you die, I will the last one to talk about your life.

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