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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  • One Sunday Evening I was preaching at our church in Idaho. Keep in mind that the service started right after dinner. I stood to begin my message and as I opened my mouth a large, unexpected, and very embarrassing burp escaped. If that wasn’t bad enough, my teenage daughter on the first row “whispered” to her friend, in a voice loud enough for the now silent sanctuary to hear, “Next he’ll fart.” I was beet red, the whole congregation was reeling with laughter. Needless to say, the message was very short that night.

  • On Palm Sunday a few years back our preacher was speaking on Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. All of a sudden, the back right section of the church made a mass exodus to the front. Some of the women were screaming, and I have never seen some of those men move so fast! There was a large black snake slithering around between the chairs! The preacher, deathly scared of snakes, would not move from the pulpit. So one of the men from the sound booth, an avid outdoors man, ran and grabbed the snake behind the head. He promptly released the snake out of the side door of the church accompanied by much cheering and clapping. The preacher, glad to have everything taken care of, made the comment, “Well, I was preaching on a donkey and a snake appeared. Its all about the animals today folks!’

  • Rich Kennedy says on

    As one who often dozed off when younger, I have sympathy with this story. I was visiting a friend Bob’s church. The pastor there often called on folks from the pulpit to close in prayer. That particular Sunday, my friend’s brother, sitting with us, was deep in quiet sleep. In the middle of the sermon, Bob gave his brother a good nudge and whispered, “Pastor want’s you to close in prayer. Hey! Pastor want’s you to pray.” He promptly stood up in the middle of the church, in the middle of the sermon and started praying.

    • I heard a comedian tell a similar joke. Only the preacher would pause in the middle of the sermon, and the son nugged the father. The father closed with a prayer and walked out, and half the congregation walked out with him.

  • Another one for you.
    Small group discipleship class. I was telling them that God can still do miracles and God does speak to us – and can speak to us as He did in the bible. At that very moment i was sure i heard a small but audible voice say “Colin”. I carried on but heard it again, this time i was sure. I asked my group if they heard anything and a couple confirmed they heard something. We remained silent and we heard it again. Faint but audible “Colin” . One of the men asked me to check my phone in my pocket and right enough i had accidently phoned my wife at home,who instead of just hanging up was shouting down the phone my name trying to attract my attention to switch the phone off.

  • Tony Henderson says on

    I am a missionary in Bolivia, South America. We have been here almost 14 years. We have seen all the distractions; chickens, dogs, cats, frogs, cell phones. Still amazed that some people are able to remember what was preached.

  • We were sitting in a very conservative church (everyone wearing suits). About 15 minutes into the sermon, there was suddenly a rhythmic thrumming in the pew. My brother-in-law and I both looked at my sister who was suppressing hysterical laughter, quite unsuccessfully. My brother in-law (who is now a preacher as well) employed his right elbow quietly to attempt to help his wife get control, also to no avail. And then we both saw it and added more vibration to the pew. There was a woman in the choir loft 2 knuckles deep into a nostril. We had to leave.

  • Jon Canler says on

    About six years ago, I was in a tiny village of Peru on a short term mission trip. One evening, I was asked to preach from the gospel of Matthew. As I was preaching, one of the infant children decided it was time to eat. So, his mama, sitting on the front row, promptly and unashamedly unbuttoned her shirt and fed her son in the middle of the service without missing a beat. I, however, was absolutely floored, and I was grateful that God gave ample grace to me to get me through the sermon without falling apart.

  • Robert Lyons says on

    One Sunday I was preaching about distractions to our hearing God. As an illustration I remarked about the amount of junk mail I receive. Then I made the comment, “How do those folks know I need Rogaine?” I am bald. What I unintentionally said instead of Rogaine was Viagara. It was almost a minute before I noticed many people had their hands over their faces. Then I realized my mistake and said, “Oh no. Did I just do what I think I did?” Half the congregation in unison replied, “Yes!” Loud laughter ensued.

  • Heard this story and took it with a pinch of salt but i later met the man in question, a very godly man who confirmed the story to be true.
    He was on the platform and called forward to pray. As he stood up he saw a man in the front row of the upper tier bow his head and his wig fall off. It fell on a womans lap on the ground floor seating. But being that she had closed her eyes to pray she suddenly opened them to find the wig on her lap. Noticing the man in front had a bald head she stuck the wig on his head. The man with bald heads wife opened her eyes to see her husband with a wig and let out a shocked cry. The man called to pray had to sit down from laughing and asked someone else to pray.

  • Sunday before last, I was preaching on wilderness experiences. Unbeknownst to me there were two Turkey Vultures perched over the side entry eyeing the folks in the back pews through the windows. Nobody fell asleep!

  • As I was preaching about the soon return of Christ, and read Paul’s passage about the trump of God sounding, at that very moment a cell phone went off and the ring tone was The Hallelujah Chorus. Got everyone’s attention!

  • A few years ago when I was pastoring at Mulberry Baptist, we had a man fall asleep about 10 minutes from my sermon being done. His wife was back teaching Children’s Chapel and he was out good but snoring loudly! No one bothered to wake him and I just kept on preaching the best I could. After I asked for the dismissal, everyone made their way back to shake my hand but no one dared to wake him up. After all had left and it was just him and me in the sanctuary, he wakes up. He began to look around and said, “Where is everybody?” To which I replied, “A trumpet starting going off and people starting disappearing!” “I guess the Rapture happened and we got left behind!”. He thought for a minute then said, “Where’s my wife?” I said, “She went with the rest of them.” To which he replied, “Well that can’t be right because I know that if she’s going, I’m going!” “I hope she didn’t go to that other place!” I’ll never forget that Wednesday evening!