Seven Sentences That Make Pastors Cringe


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.
More from Thom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • Ruth Fisher says on

    I know pastors get much criticism. But I would caution about being critical about people who say “good sermon” as you shake hands after church. There is a line of people waiting: that isn’t the time and place to tell you how Holy Spirit used you to convict my heart about sin or how God used your words to encourage me during a dark time. Also my pastor friends are well read and very good with words and adjectives. Not everyone has a ready list of adjectives to describe something as personal as our spiritual life. As a support co-worker in the kingdom, I know we don’t and shouldn’t do this for compliments. But don’t let the devil rob you of encouragement from God’s people who are growing because you faithfully preach the Word.

    • Stevie Mick says on

      Excellent point, Ruth! As I listen to another’s sermon I’ve made it a habit to make a one or two sentence application to share with the pastor in place of the generic “good sermon” and it will not slow the line down much at all.

  • I cringe at the following sentence, “I can tell you this because you’re married.”

  • Jan Andersen says on

    Yep. I would add things like:
    1. We’ve never/always done it that way before!
    2. Your sermon really gave it to so-and-so!
    3. That’s what we hired a pastor for (when talking about evangelism, visiting the sick and shut-in, etc)!
    4. We can’t afford to give/budget anything for mission work.
    5. My family built this church!
    6. If I had known you were standing behind me, I wouldn’t have said that!
    7. No one called on me when… ! (even though they never let anyone know).
    AND the one that topped almost all of the others:
    8. I don’t care what the Bible says, you’re wrong!

  • While teaching a Sunday School class after combining the “quarterly” notes and my personal notes together in my Bible I had this comment made at the annual business meeting: “He teaches out of his Bible and doesn’t use the quarterly.” I quickly said to my wife, “Put those first six words on my tombstone!”

  • Dr. John Adams says on

    Also – I’m not sure what you are saying, but I know you are wrong.

  • Great list, thanks for sharing it.

    A comment that makes me cringe isn’t usually said in church but when I meet someone, usually a believer, and tell them I’m a pastor. They say, “Oh! ________________ is my favorite Bible teacher.” I feel like asking them what they do for a living and then telling them who my favorite plumber or lawyer or whatever is. I haven’t done that but am so tempted to! I have heard this more times than I can count!

  • Thom,

    Thank you for this ministry! You have been a huge blessing to me and I have gleaned a lot from the info on Revitalization and Pastoral helps period. Thank you for your heart for the Lord and his people (especially Pastors). Praying for you as well!!

  • Stevie Mick says on

    #6 indicates a need for a reminder of Yeshua’s teaching on remaining clean in our relationships with one another (Matt. 18:15-17). Pay attention to the singular in the Greek…this is individual relationships within the body of the Messiah.

  • Daniel E McDowell says on

    I have been in pastoral ministry for 37 years and #6 has been the bane of my existence. If I could start over knowing what I know now I would nip that statement in the bud and never allow it to remain unchallenged. I SO appreciate your confrontation of the cowardice at play in that statement. Bullies hide behind it constantly. I will never tolerate that again.

  • David Rutledge says on

    I had the chairman of the deacons come into my office one time and said “I can take over this place anytime I want”

    • Too many deacons have that mindset. I’ve had one tell me he should be pastoring. There are always power struggles with these guys

  • I sometimes hear number 7 as a positive to change, as in “well pastor, you’re gonna change things, just like the pastors before you did, but there’s more to me being a member of this church than how things are done today.”

  • Joe Bridger says on

    I heard every one of these in my last church.