By Mark Dance
Pastors sometimes say stupid things without realizing it. Today, we’re going to have some fun at our own expense by pooling together our awkward “preacherisms.” My hope is in doing so we’ll be more careful about what we say.
As Proverbs 12:1 reminds us, “One who hates correction is stupid.”
Peter is our patron saint of stupid statements. In Mark 9:5-6, Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good for us to be here. Let us set up three shelters: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — because he did not know what to say, since they were terrified.
We love Peter both in spite of and because of his imperfections. What I love most about Peter is how he grew through his immaturity. God used that same careless tongue that denied and frustrated Jesus to preach the gospel to thousands.
I have thirty years of pastoral fumbles to draw on for this post, so I’ll prime the pump with five stupid statements I’ve used repeatedly.
In the comments section, I’d really love for you to add more stupid things you’ve heard or said.
1. “Call me any time.”
Do we really mean this, or is it a figure of speech? Quite frankly, it matters less what we mean and more what they perceive. We must be careful about writing blank checks like this to our church members.
A pastor who’s available all the time has created a life and ministry without boundaries or priorities. God has a clear pecking order for us, which in my life, starts with Jesus and Janet.
2. “I’ll pray about it.”
Sometimes this is the best thing to say, and then there are the other times. The difference between this being a smart or stupid statement is the context.
If you know you’re going to say “no” or “yes,” then are you actually going to pray about it?
“Let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil one,” as Matthew 5:37 says.
3. “I’d rather burn out than rust out.”
Okay, let’s all own this one, friends. This tired old line probably originated in a Die Hard movie and needs to be enshrined in the Preacher Hall of Shame.
It’s a stupid line because we don’t have to choose between these avoidable options. I’d rather do neither.
Pastors who burn out need to start equipping people instead of enabling them. Pastors who rust out need to do a better job “devoting ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word,” as Acts 6:4 reminds us.
4. “I love you.”
Is there anything wrong with telling someone you love them? You can say the right thing in the wrong context and turn something special into something stupid.
I’m not provoking you here; I’m just cautioning you not to use “I love you” too casually. Instead, use it intentionally because love is a covenant word, not a casual word.
For example, “I love you” becomes a stupid statement when it’s said to someone of the opposite sex. The exception is when they’re clearly old enough to be your parent.
5. “I’ll be right there.”
I’ve made and broken this promise countless times to my family, friends, and church members. Our intentions may be good, but over-promising consistently leads to under-delivering, which is how the erosion of trust develops.
A cousin of this stupid statement is, “I’ll call you right back.” Listen, a man of the Word needs to be a man of his word.
Your honesty will run more miles than your efficiency. Most people don’t expect you to drop everything for them, and those who do will quickly become multiple offenders.
I hope this post has been helpful to you. Now it’s time to keep the conversation going by adding more stupid stuff pastors say in the comments section.
Please remember this is an exercise in encouragement, not embarrassment, so speak the truth in love.
MARK DANCE (@markdance) serves as Director of Lifeway Pastors. He speaks at churches, conferences, and retreats – often with his wife Janet. Mark has contributed to several books and offers weekly encouragement at markdance.net.