We preachers live and die by words. Sometimes die is hardly an overstatement, as in the case of the pastor who announced to his congregation, “We’ve remodeled the nursery, and I want you ladies to help me fill that place up!”
At least preachers aren’t alone in bungled communications. I came across a little book the other day that provides plenty of examples. It’s called The 776 Stupidest Things Ever Said (by Ross and Kathryn Peters, Doubleday, 1993), and the title is self-explanatory.
Some of the best examples — not surprisingly — come from politicians, such as this comment from former Georgia governor Lester Maddox: “Honest businessmen should be protected from the unscrupulous consumer.” Or former Washington mayor Marion Barry, who boasted of his city: “Outside of the killings, [Washington] has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.” Or former California governor Pat Brown, who noted: “This is the worst disaster in California since I was elected.”
I particularly liked the comment of one congressman who insisted, “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for me.”
Movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn is credited with some of the best lines, such as “I had a great idea this morning, but I didn’t like it,” and “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”
Other great “words to live by” come from sports figures like New Orleans Saints running back George Rogers, who projected, “I want to gain 1,500 or 2,000 yards, whichever comes first.” One would assume George wasn’t a math major in college.
The best sports comments, of course, come from Yogi Berra, who is credited with such one-liners as, “If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him,” and “I ain’t in no slump. I just ain’t hitting.”
Even God is pulled into the act. The state historian for Tennessee, for instance, observed that, “Next to God, Andrew Jackson was the greatest man who ever lived.”
Believe it or not, some silly things are even said by preachers. One English parson, raising money for a cemetery in the last century, observed, “It is deplorable to think of a parish where there are 30,000 people living without a Christian burial.” Or there was the introduction of a preacher with the comment that he is “known all over the world, and other places besides.” I should hope so.
After some sermons, we may feel like former Florida State football coach Bill Peterson, who noted, “They gave me a standing observation.”
I’ve searched the memory banks and come up with my own top five “Stupidest Things I’ve Ever Said.” They are:
1. “Sure, I’d be happy to chaperone the youth retreat.”
2. “Salary? Oh, just do whatever you think is right?”
3. “Those deacons aren’t as difficult as you think.”
4. “OK, but just one little bite.”
5. “He doesn’t look so tough to me.”
But when all is said (or resaid) and done, I’m with Dan Quayle, who proudly boasted, “I stand by all my misstatements.” Or something like that.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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