You’ve probably seen the Christmas card with a picture of a rotund fellow identified as “Round John Virgin.” I saw one seasonal image that had a picture of “Pilot” flying the airplane in which the other nativity characters were flying—an unfortunate juxtaposition of Christmas and Easter if I’ve ever seen one.
I hadn’t thought about that in a long time until visiting a church this past Sunday, where the guest preacher made a reference to “the radiation of Christ.” I’m pretty sure he meant radiance, but I couldn’t help but smile at the picture of a glowing Jesus that kids throughout the congregation must have been visualizing.
Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time a preacher said something he didn’t actually intend to say. For instance, there was the preacher who meant to identify Moses as unique, but instead turned him into a eunuch. Also, there was the minister who was reciting prayer requests when he announced, “Be in prayer for Debbie Hill, who will be having a Caesarea next week.” After a few moments, he realized that Mrs. Hill was not going to Israel but was scheduled for a caesarian section.
Pastor Greg Stier is a brave man who actually posted an article about some of his worst preaching gaffes. Among them:
• “We all make mistakes. We all have cracks in our armor. Pastor Rick and I have seen each other's cracks.”
• Actually saying he had “one foot in the grave” while performing a funeral.
• On a preaching tour in India, I was on stage facing the audience getting ready to preach my sermon. My interpreter told me at one point in the service, “As a guest speaker, it would be good for the people to see you give in the offering.” When the priest walked out onto the other side of the large stage with a huge bowl, I figured this was my cue. Getting up, I walked across the stage and dropped in a five spot. The priest smiled and nodded nervously. I walked back across the stage with everyone watching me. After sitting down my interpreter whispered in my ear, “Pastor Stier that was very good…but that was not the offering plate.”
Sometimes we just don’t realize what we are saying—such as the elder who was briefing the visiting preacher. “What time should the service end?” asked the preacher, to which the elder replied, “Just follow the leading of the Holy Spirit—but be done by noon.”
Michael Duduit is executive editor of Preaching and professor of Christian ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. He certainly never has made any preaching gaffes—or at least not in the past week.