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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90 Comments

  • heath lloyd says on

    A pastor friend of mine tells the story of preaching in a store-front church one Sunday morning, and he sees his three year old son get up and slip beside and behind the pulpit area to go to the bathroom.

    Everything was OK until a few minutes later the little fella starts yelling to the top of his lungs — “DADDY! COME WIPE ME!”

  • I was pastoring a church in a small, rural Iowa town. My wife and her best friend had gone to a women’s retreat in Decorah. When they were in church then next Sunday, they both sat in the 2nd row from the front. When I started the sermon I looked out to see my wife and her friend smiling at me with the “Bubba” teeth they got at the women’s retreat. I tried to ignore it, but finally asked them to take those things out of their mouths. Somehow I managed the finish the message without any problems. After the service I overheard some elderly ladies lecturing my oldest son about not disturbing me when I was preaching. They were really chastising him. My wife and her friend were standing nearby and they totally threw him under the bus – they let him take the wrap for it.

  • Philip Doggart says on

    As the preacher said the walls of Jericho fell with a mighty rumble, my dad’s stomach realised he was hungry. The mighty rumble was an adequate sound effect for the preacher. Cue much laughter around us!

  • One Sunday my Dad was preaching about Elijah defeating the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. One elderly man who shall remain nameless fell asleep during the sermon. Dad began reciting Elijah’s mockery to the prophets. “Maybe your god is busy…or maybe he’s asleep!” The elderly man snorted awake with a start and looked like he was in front of a firing squad. Apparently, he was convinced Dad had called him out from the pulpit. 🙂 He looked mortified and wide-eyed through the rest of the message.

  • Thom Rainer says on

    Wow. Please send the rooster to LifeWay.

  • Marcus Merritt says on

    While preaching a revival service in a nearby church, a red wasp flew slowly from the back toward the front causing a huge distraction and much trepidation. Unbeknown to the deacon on the front row, the wasp landed on top of his head. The lady behind him took a thick Baptist hymnal, raised it over her head and smacked the wasp. The deacon literally fell to his knees, not knowing what had hit him. Somehow I managed to keep preaching but it wasn’t easy!

  • Our former pastor one Sunday morning decided to add a “visual aid” to his sermon. He was preaching on Peter’s denial of Christ, and had gone to a farmer’s market beforehand to purchase a rooster. All through his sermon the rooster stood quietly on the edge of the pulpit, even allowing our pastor to pet him from time to time. As he came to the part of the sermon about the cock crowing, that rooster let out the loudest crow ever! Talk about effect! Don’t know if that was a distraction, but we’ve never forgotten it!

  • Chris Bonts says on

    In my first pastorate, we didn’t have waders when I arrived. I would baptize, then run back to my office to dry off, change clothes, and hustle back to the sanctuary just in time to preach. When I suggested in one of our business meetings that we buy some waders (unbudgeted expenditures over $50 were prohibited without congregational approval at that time), a farmer in my church said he would donate his because he never used them anymore.

    The following week, I had a pair of waders just in time for our next baptism. I was so happy. I put them on over my suit pants, shirt, and tie (I had never actually worn waders before), then stepped into the baptistry to immerse a new believer. It was at that time that I discovered the waders were filled with pin holes. They literally filled with water. I barely made it out of the baptistry they were so heavy. To make matters worse, I had no change of clothes! I had to send my wife home to get another suit, while our lay worship leader sang a boatload of extra songs to delay.

    My wife came back with suit in short order. One that no longer fit. Trust me, it was a distraction for everyone in church that morning :). I wore a skinny suit before skinny jeans were cool – and I’m not built to wear skinny jeans.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Chris –

      I’m having trouble with the visuals here: )

    • Jeff Walters says on

      Same things happened to me, Chris! I ended up preaching in a wet shirt and tie and a pair of old work jeans that were wadded up in the toolbox of my truck…

  • Peter Dodge says on

    I was preaching a series at one point that followed Paul’s use of a particular Greek pronoun and what implications this had for us- needless to say there was usually a good bit of Greek language work involved in these messages. The second week of the series I was mildly alarmed to see that my college Greek and NT professor was there with his family. Several times during my first point I glanced his way and noticed him making faces; he was kind of wrinkling his face as though he was pained by what he was hearing. I assumed it was my Greek exegesis and for the remained of the sermon I skipped everything I had prepared where language was concerned. I learned after he had a terrible head cold and he was trying to unclog his sinuses.
    When I was a kid my dad was preaching one Sunday and my mother had taken the kids to the Sunday school room in the church basement for children’s church. We could hear the preaching above us in muffled tones and if we got loud enough they could hear us- thus mom threatened death on us if we got noisy. Mid way through I didn’t catch the context to it but I clearly heard my father yell “Can you hear me down there” (He was saying that God does not always shout in audible ways to get out attention). I did hear him however the church broke loose in uncontrollable laughter as they heard my voice rise through the floor saying “I hear you just fine dad- what do you want?”

  • It was in the mid-1970’s when I was a “rompin, stompin, high-steppin youth evangelist. Was preaching in Bakersfield, in August, in 100 degree weather, church had no AC and the “swamp cooler” was broken. So the front door was left open hoping church would get a breeze.
    In the middle of my sermon a big bassett hound parked himself in the doorway. When I gave to altar call, no one moved. s I extended the altar call the dog slowly but deliberately made its way toward the front, sat down in front of me on his back legs and paid serious attention to me. I should have bent down, taken one of his paws, and with other arm put it around its neck, with the dog start praying that the humans there would respond to Christ.

  • One Sunday morning, we were receiving communion, and waiting for everyone to be served. As an associate pastor, I sat on the front row, and that Sunday, a “rough around the edges” guy sat on the opposite row. While we were waiting, it was a quiet, reflective moment, when all of a sudden, everyone hears the unmistakable sound of a large soda can being opened. The guy on the front row had cracked open an enormous Rockstar energy drink while waiting to eat and drink the sacraments. It was quite humorous!

  • One time I had a family of mice run through the sanctuary in the middle of my sermon. There were five of them. It was funny watching all the men in the sanctuary trying to catch them.

    Another time, just before my sermon, we were singing a song and a man passed out, fell to the floor, and hit his head on the concrete floor. An ambulance had to be called and we simply closed the service with prayer. That kept other people from “passing out” during my sermon.