Top Ten Actual Stories of Preaching Distractions

UPDATE: Listen to the podcast episode about this post.

With the exception of a few overly serious commenters, my blogpost on preaching distractions last week was a lot of fun. In that post, I reported categories of preaching distractions from a number of pastors I surveyed. Over the past week I have received numerous actual stories of distractions.

In honor of those great stories, I have compiled my own top ten actual examples. Some of them came from the 100 plus comments; others were shared with me via Twitter, Facebook, and in-person. I have put the stories in my own words while trying to be true to the facts.

Feel free to add your own stories to the list. Your story may even move into the top ten. Enjoy!

10. Crazy as a bat.

“A bat started flying low while I was preaching. Many people were screaming. Finally some of the men captured the critter. They actually had prayer over him and released him toward the Methodist church.”

9. Lazarus come forth!

“While I was preaching on John 11, the story of Lazarus, a 100-year-old woman lost consciousness. Our organist, a nurse, went to attend to her, and whispered ‘no pulse.’ The story does have a happy ending though. The lady survived.”

8. Don’t Pledge the pews!

“Our new custodian decided to impress everyone by putting Pledge on all the wooden pews. While the preacher was preaching, there were repeated sounds of crashing and thuds as people were unable to hold their posterior on the piney Pledged pews.”

7. Chemical spill!

“I was not the only one who smelled the chemical odor while I preached. Indeed I started getting worried, as I got more and more lightheaded. I would learn after the service that a woman was taking off her nail polish with nail polish remover while I preached.”

6. UFO spotted.

“A child kicked off a tennis shoe and it landed right next to me while I preached. The kid claimed it was an accident.”

5. How many men does it take . . . ?

“During my sermon everyone was distracted as one man after another disappeared from the sanctuary. Finally I learned that we had a leak in one of the restrooms. Eight men were trying to fix it and ten men were observing them.”

4. Semper Fi.

“Everyone has experienced cell phones ringing during sermons. What was unusual about this one was that it was playing the Marine Corps hymn, and no one could find the phone while it was ringing.”

3. No it’s snot.

“During a point of real emphasis in the sermon, a choir member let go of a huge sneeze. That was distracting enough, but she failed to cover her face, and a huge pile of mucus landed on the shoulder of the preacher’s coat. He didn’t realize it at the time. Many in the choir had to leave as they couldn’t stop laughing.”

2. An arresting moment.

“The pastor was ten minutes into his sermon when two police officers came in the service, pointed to a deacon to come out of the pew, handcuffed him and took him away. I thought the amazing thing was that the pastor kept preaching, but I was even more amazed that the deacon’s wife stayed for the entire service.”

1. It’s a gas.

“The seven-year-old preacher’s kid was a bit of a troublemaker, but he was in rare form on this particular Sunday. Right in the middle of the sermon, he stood up, then bent over and yelled ‘Thar she blows!’ It was one of the loudest moments of flatulence I’ve ever heard. The service ended at that moment with the preacher exiting with his precocious son.”

Thanks for the great stories. I hope you readers can add even more.

Posted on April 22, 2013

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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  • If the bat story was in Texas about 4 years ago, know that it made it to the Methodist church and flew around madly for a while. 🙂

  • My first church had no foyer to the sanctuary, only glass doors. One Sunday night, some kids from across the street came to church, and their dog followed them (a bulldog mix, a friendly dog). He stayed at the doors through worship and seemed entertained by the music. But, when I started preaching, he began to howl–and I mean HOWL. After a few minutes of no one helping me out, I asked some of the deacons to “either let our guest in or send him home.” I was kinda hoping they’d let him in. 🙂

    I’m not going to mention the time I said that “Nineveh sat in sackcloth and ashes” on live radio. Needless to say, “ashes” didn’t come out right.

  • There was a lady who had labor pains all afternoon and still came to evening church. She knew she needed to leave when her water broke all over the pew! A bit of a distraction 🙂

  • One of the biggest distractions for me was when the senior pastor walked up to the pulpit about midway through my sermon and informed me my wife was in labor and needed to go to the hospital. The senior pastor asked to see my notes to finish the sermon and with a laugh a said I was preaching without notes that day.

  • Yesterday a couple on the third row pulled out bagels, a knife, and cream cheese and had breakfast while I was preaching. I don’t know that I was distracted as much as I was completely astonished because I’m pretty sure they do this every week.

  • Jeff Walters says on

    When I was a new pastor, a new mom was sitting on the second pew bouncing her daughter on her knee. As I glanced over, the kid smiled an evil grin at me and vomited down the back of the first pew. I’ve never been too good with vomit, and I apparently began to sway back and forth in the pulpit. My wife didn’t know what had happened, but said she was afraid I was getting ready to pass out. I don’t remember much of the rest of the message.

    On another occasion, I was preaching right along about Jesus’ ministry, when I said, “And Jesus went about the countryside healing people and casting out deacons.” I didn’t notice the slip, but a murmer spread across the congregation. The murmer turned into giggles, then into laughter as I continued without missing a beat. I finally had to ask why everyone was laughing. I’m afraid I had to wrap things up then.

  • It is even worse when a preacher causes his own distractions. One such even was the worst of all verbal slip-ups, from which there is no valid recovery. The pastor meant to say, “Turn to the book of 1 Peter while I pull out my glasses.” Unfortunately, he got it all backwards and said, “Turn to the book of glasses while I pull out my peter.”

    I don’t know how me managed to go on.

  • I was preaching one morning and there was a woman sitting in the second row right at the centre aisle literally about a foot away from where I was standing. When I glanced down at her I noticed that she was knitting away and that there was a large ball of yarn at her feet. It was only a distraction for me for a moment, but our video team wasn’t able to use one of the cameras for the rest of the service because you could see the woman knitting.

  • I had a cat walk in right before I was to speak. He walked up on the platform (while we were singing) walked around the communion table and then sat down and looked at us before someone finally picked him up and took him out.

  • Most common distractions don’t bother me. However, I was preaching one day and I almost stopped my sermon when I noticed a young lady sitting on the third row lifting her shirt and picking lint out of her belly button. It was several minutes before I looked at that side of the sanctuary again.

  • David Tuten says on

    My mother tells the story of my grandfather, who was a fiery Methodist country preacher. In one church, a church leader always sat on the front pew, and always went to sleep during the sermon. My grandfather apparently had several talks with the man, to no avail. Finally, exasperated beyond, my grandfather told him that if he fell asleep again, he was going to throw something at him. Sure enough, the next Sunday, the man fell asleep. And, sure enough, my grandfather took a hymnal from the side of the pulpit and beaned him. Reportedly cured the problem.

    I had not been at a new church very long. One Sunday morning, I was preaching merrily along when suddenly a man on the main floor jumped up and ran out the door. I was mentally reviewing what I had just said, wondering how I could have upset someone that badly. Then, a few seconds later, another man in the balcony did the same thing. Then it made sense – I knew the second one was a volunteer firefighter; I didn’t know the first one was. They had gotten an alarm (at least they had a silent setting!).

  • Les Fogleman says on

    I was about 12 and my brother 13 when our dad was preaching in a very rural area across the river where we lived. A man we knew who worked in our little town crossed the river every day for work, that is how we knew him. We were sitting on the second pew while dad was preaching and when I turned to look at the man and he had a matchstick in both eyes holding open his eyelids. My brother and I laughed so hard we cried and had to leave the service. Don’t know what dad said to the man.

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