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.

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Comments

  1. Les Fogleman says

    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.

  2. David Tuten says

    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!).

  3. JR says

    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.

  4. says

    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.

  5. Jon says

    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.

  6. Joshua says

    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.

  7. Jeff Walters says

    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.

  8. Geoff says

    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.

  9. says

    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.

  10. says

    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 :)

  11. Matt says

    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.

  12. JD says

    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. :)

  13. says

    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.

  14. Tony says

    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!

  15. says

    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.

  16. Peter Dodge says

    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?”

  17. Chris Bonts says

    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.

    • Jeff Walters says

      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…

  18. says

    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!

  19. Marcus Merritt says

    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!

  20. says

    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.

  21. Philip Doggart says

    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!

  22. says

    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.

  23. heath lloyd says

    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!”

  24. says

    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!

  25. says

    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!

  26. says

    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!

  27. Kolin says

    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.

  28. Robert Lyons says

    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.

  29. Jon Canler says

    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.

  30. Gary says

    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.

  31. Tony Henderson says

    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.

  32. Kolin says

    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.

  33. Rich Kennedy says

    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.

  34. Kait says

    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!’

  35. says

    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.

  36. says

    As a teen, I was sitting with the youth group and one of us fell asleep during the sermon. At the conclusion of the service the pasor would always call on someone to pray. No one him to embarrassed so another student elbowed him a couple of times and whispered “Dude, pastor called on you to pray.”

    He quickly jumped up and began to pray. The only problem was the pastor was only about half way through the message. Ooops!! Needless to say the next week the student section was extremely thin as just about everyone was sitting with their families.

  37. Adrienne D. says

    I was at a large conference where a nationally recognized preacher was speaking. During his evening talk a mouse appeared and began to run, alternately, back and forth across the platform, then back and forth across the floor in front of the platform, then back again to the platform. From my seat on the front row I could see people in the first several rows quickly putting their shoes back on and women were picking up their babies and purses off the floor and drawing their feet up to their chair. The speaker, realizing why he’d lost the attention of his audience, spotted the mouse on one of its platform runs and took off after it, stomping and shouting, then took a flying leap off the platform hollering “Be gone!” or something along those lines. He thought that would be the end of it, but the mouse returned a short time later until finally it was given an escape route through a door which opened into “the outer darkness” of the night. Memorable!

  38. PK Mom says

    My husband was preaching “in view of a call” and a friend at our old church said, “I hope the little one does something embarrassing so they won’t call you.” Sure enough as we were standing for prayer before the sermon, I heard my older son gasp. I looked down and my bored preschooler had unzipped his pants. Thankfully the only distraction for my husband was seeing us walk out just as he began preaching. No one else ever mentioned seeing it, and they called him as pastor.

  39. says

    About 30 years ago our church was having a “God & Country” service on a Sunday evening. A patriotic singing group was our guests for the service. They showed several slides and movies throughout the night. From my location at the front of the church I could see behind the screen that they had set up. Somehow a kitten had made its way into the church, had crawled in through the baptistery into the choir loft and he kept poking his head up over the pews in the loft. My friend and I (we were 8-10 yrs old) thought that was the best part of the service so we kept watching where the kitten would poke his head up next and laughing every time we saw him.
    My dad, the pastor, was not happy with our snickering, so he moved over to where I sat. When I told him why we were laughing, which by this time the kitten had crawled back into the baptistery, he sent his associate pastor to get the “cat” out of the baptistery.
    What we didn’t know at the time was that the associate pastor thought he said get the “kid” out of the baptistery. So while he is walking up the back stairs in the dark to get the “kid” out of the baptistery, he steps on the “cat.” The ensuing scream – both from the cat and the associate pastor – even made my dad snicker.

  40. Stephen Russ says

    Last week, I was prepared to preach a message on the origin of Satan and his purpose here on Earth. Lo and behold, a wasp was getting comfortable on the ceiling above the pulpit. As our song leader was directing music, the wasp began to hover over him, continuing to drop lower. I was distracted reading over some prayer requests, when suddenly I heard a loud BANG! The wasp had landed on the pulpit, and the director open-handedly pummeled him…on the downbeat. Even better, he went on and finished the song in spite of the ordeal.

  41. Bernie says

    Our church had a mission outreach last December where the church volunteers spread out and each one talked and share the Gospel to groups of 5 ~ 6 persons. From the corner of my eyes I saw one of my friend started sharing the Gospel to his group when 2 of the women, who were both holding their baby, started breastfeeding in front of everyone. Boy, am I glad they were not in my group.

  42. says

    A friend told me just the other day about a guest speaker who lost his pants right in the middle of his sermon. They fell all the way to the floor. I think it was red and white checkered briefs. He reached down and drew them back on and kept preaching. I suspect nobody remembered what he said but I doubt they ever forgot that!

  43. KH says

    Thanks for all the stories.

    Sorry to hear about preacher’s wife that did not speak up for her son.

    Breast feeding done properly should not be much of a distraction–or barely detectable.

  44. Brad C. says

    My dad was preaching one Sunday morning to a packed crowd. He was giving an illustration about the “Great gulf” between heaven no hell. He said, “Let’s say that I really wanted to get to the other side, so I backed up and took off running as hard and fast as I can. When I reached the edge if the gulf I jumped as high as possible, but I came up about a foot short.” Well, during this illustration he got the attention of a young boy who had come on the church bus. This boy, fully immersed in the story couldn’t contain himself, so right at the point where dad said he “…came up short and fell to his death,” this young boy said, in a very clear and audible voice, “Well, WHY did you jump?” Needless to say, the whole place lost it.

  45. Nate says

    One sunday at the small rural church I pastored, we were reading Psalm 42 when everyone in the church started lokking out the window, as I was the only one reading I looked out the window and there was a buck standing outside the window looking in at us.
    When I finshed reading the deer quietly turned around and left.
    I had the perfect illustration for my sermon.

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