Seven things the pastor cannot do from the pulpit

“…so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God….” (I Timothy 3:15).

You can’t chew gum in the pulpit, smoke a cigarette, or bring your coffee in with you. You can’t preach in your pajamas or lead a worship service in your swimsuit.

But you knew that.

However, some pastors do things every bit as silly as this, and as counter-productive, we must say.

Now, in one sense, a pastor can do anything from the pulpit.  Once.

But we’re talking about things no right-thinking godly pastor should attempt to do from the Lord’s sacred place of leadership in His church.

1. He cannot recommend a book which has questionable material in it nor condemn a book he has not read.

Okay. He can, but he shouldn’t.

2. Ditto a movie.  Some movies have much to be commended, but by their horrible language and their using Christ’s name blasphemously destroy all the good.  The pastor will not want to endorse such a movie even though it has some positive aspects.

3. He cannot bring someone into the pulpit, even for an interview, whose life is a contradiction to the way of Jesus Christ.

There may be a forum for the church to host the mayor who has atheistic beliefs or a prominent author of a questionable piece which would not give the impression of endorsing the person’s lifestyle, if that is thought necessary. But a worship service is not the place.

We remember how Paul and Silas did not appreciate the recommendation of the demon-possessed girl of Acts 16.  “These men are servants of the Most High God,” she called out to everyone.  The problem was, people saw her as crazy.  She was the last person who should be testifying about the Lord.  So, Paul cast the demon from her. Suddenly, she was free, was normal, and was quiet.

4. He cannot preach that he disbelieves certain scriptures.

Imagine a NASA engineer addressing the astronauts just before their blastoff, to inform them that he has no confidence in the integrity of the spaceship, that the onboard computers are untrustworthy, or that there are flaws in the design.  He ends with, “Nevertheless, you have a good flight.”

If the preacher disbelieves the Bible, let him resign and find an honest way to make a living.

(Note: In the past, when I have said something similar, people will write to argue that they appreciate the transparency of such a minister who would admit to having the same struggles as they.  Far from agreeing with them, I find their point of view amazing.  I wonder if they would be willing to undergo surgery when the physician doubts his abilities and questions the procedures.)

5. He cannot share doubts. Imagine a pastor telling the congregation the struggles he has with the deity of the Lord, or doctrines such as salvation, the Incarnation, the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, and the Atonement.

If he has such issues, let him read Psalm 73 a dozen times and take its message to heart, then work out his doubts in private.

A favorite seminary once told our class, “My job is not to share my doubts with you.  I figure you have enough of those of your own.”

6. He cannot tell the congregation that he struggles with porn or lust.  Some things are better dealt with privately–or at least between himself, his spouse, and a faithful counselor–but never in public.

The pastor who tells his people that he has a lust problem is creating more problems for himself than he can imagine. Every woman in the church will think he’s undressing her when he shakes her hand. When that happens, his ministry has come to an abrupt halt.

7. A minister cannot rebuke anyone publicly from the pulpit.  He cannot call names and slander someone, no matter how strongly he feels. (see postscript)

Again, he may do it, but not and retain the respect of Christians who know the word and reverence His name. Mean-spirited preachers will always have their defenders, but this does not make it wise or right.

Let the preacher honor His Lord, reverence His calling, and bless His people.

Let the preacher never forget he has not been called to “share his heart” with his people but to “preach the Word” (II Timothy 4:2).

Let the preacher not fall prey to the temptation to be transparent to the point that he lays stumblingblocks in the paths of his people.

Let the preacher say to himself a hundred times a day, “This is not about me; This is about Jesus Christ” (see 2 Corinthians 4:5).

Let the preacher with overwhelming doubts have enough integrity to a) get help, b) stay on his knees, c) not preach his doubts, and d) get out of the ministry if the doubts and questions remain unresolved.

We will all stand before the Lord and give account.

Let none of us have to account for having caused God’s people to stumble.

*Post Script: When published this article, several readers were quick to take issue with #7, not calling names from the pulpit. They said I am contradicting I Timothy 5:20 which reads “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all….”

My response: a) The previous verse says Paul is referring to elders in the body, not to the world at large, which was what I had in mind (although I wasn’t clear on that).  b) My concern is irresponsible preachers who attack celebrities, politicians, etc., by name, committing slander (a word I did use). There is no place for that in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are sent as bearers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, not as Old Testament prophets off to Samaria to confront wicked Jezebel and good-for-nothing Ahab.

c) Might there not be exceptions to #7? Of course. We can probably think of a possible exception to every one of these.  As the saying goes, “Every rule has its exceptions, including this one.”

11 thoughts on “Seven things the pastor cannot do from the pulpit

  1. Plain old good advice. Don’t think I’d do these but its good to be reminded. Although I might condemn a book without reading ALL of it.

  2. Pingback: The Top 10 Leadership Posts I Read The Week Of March 31st | Brian Dodd on Leadership

  3. Pastor McKeever; I have a question regarding slandering people from the pulpit;
    you changed your outline later in the article to say a pastor should not slander
    politicians, celebrities, etc…from the pulpit. My question to you is, what is your
    definition for slander? Mine is telling lies about people which is wrong to do to
    ANYONE, whether they are a member of the church or not. What about a preacher
    that slanders someone in the congregation not once or twice, but three times
    without so much as an apology or a meeting? What if the preacher/pastor never
    sat with the person in a one on one meeting to discuss the issue beforehand to see
    if the accusation made against them were even true?
    I’m speaking from a real life scenario: this pastor slandered this person
    in a very crowded Sunday morning service without so much as having said
    ten words to this person from the time they walked in the door the first time.
    This person never made one ounce of trouble in the church but for some reason
    the pastor did not like the person from the start and harrassed them until they
    left feeling they had no choice but to leave. It’s one thing to rebuke an elder that
    has caused problems in the church and is unrepentant; it’s quite another to
    do so to someone that is new to your church and has done nothing he/she is
    being slandered for. Anyone can say anything about a person behind their back
    simply because they feel threatened by them (jealousy, competition, insecurity)
    etc… A pastor with true integrity would never take someones word about
    another person they are unfamiliar with without talking first to the accused in
    private. In the scenario I described it’s as if the pastor/preacher was
    deliberately trying to get the person to leave without having to do the dirty work
    of asking them point blank. When the accused asked to meet with him for
    a few minutes to ask why he was doing this, the pastor suddenly could never
    find time to meet, even though that is clearly taught in scripture in Matthew. In
    fact, in scripture the word says meet in private FIRST, not after you have
    slandered a person in public without ever speaking to them in a face to
    face meeting. Slander is wrong no matter what…and it’s wrong no matter
    who is being lied about. True rebuke is NOT the same as slander.

    • I grieve when I hear of pastors who violate not only the clear commands of Scripture in these things but just basic rules of courtesy and kindness. A small group of sweet godly leaders should meet with him immediately after such an infraction and hear his side of the matter, and then–unless they learn something surprising which justifies what the preacher did–call for an immediate visit to that person and a public apology. Apologies must always be as public as the offense was. –The church that cannot muster such a “small group of sweet godly leaders” is in big trouble. No one without courage should ever accept a leadership position in a church.

  4. my wife and I were called out by my pastors wife from the pulpit while she was on the subject of ‘Offense’ and called us out twice. but I tried to confront her about it and she says she only said our names out of conversation on the matter. is that still wrong?

  5. I had been going to this church since 2007 and because of some uncomfortable conflicts between staff members, I didn’t feel comfortable going back.

    My 15 year old daughter insisted I take her, she wanted to get involved in their youth program. So I complied with her wishes only to get bashed from the pulpit one Saturday night. He didn’t mention my name but the content he was angry at me about, was something I had said, not word for word, he had twisted around its meaning.

    It felt just like a dagger had entered my heart. It was very evil and I nonchalantly, got up and left! Right in the middle of his rant. I felt sick emotionally. It felt like emotional abuse. What I couldn’t understand was, why he never called me in private to tell me how he felt?

    My daughter followed suit not long after and we went home. This isn’t the only incident of abuse this church has inflicted on a person. There have been many more! One elderly man they literally physically removed him, roughing him up in the process. You would think such cruelty wouldn’t be allowed to go on.

    As I drove away, I started praying and its as if this peace came over my heart, like God is shielding me from the hurt.

    The verse came to me as I left about its better for them to be thrown into the sea with a milestone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Luke 17:2

    Anyway, Gods word does say vengeance is mine Romans 12:19-20.

    My prayers go out to anyone whose been spiritually abused by a preacher in erRoar.

    God bless!

    • Thank you. God bless you. My heart is stil heavy, but I dont want to go back. In a text, he apologized, stating never his intention to offend me, but it was because the message was so harsh…..

  6. I visited a small local church for the 4th time. The pastor teaches the adult Sunday School class which is conducted in the sanctuary. I was 4 minutes late due to two circunstances that detained me. He hadn’t given the opening prayer yet or started the Bible study. He did make it a point to say to me in front of the class, “Well, you almost made it on time.” I was very hurt. He does not know me or what I’ve been thru. It would have been nice for him to have said, “Glad to have you with us today.” I will admit, I am fragile emotionally. Visitors are already self conscious. It certainly wasn’t a welcoming comment that he made. He commented during the class how the church hadn’t grown since he had been there. He is has been there about two years. He has been a pastor for about 20 years. Well, if visitors are chided mockingly in front of others, they won’t want to come back.

  7. Good day. Is there any scriptural reference to point 3? I know of a situation where a pastor and a unbeliever had a very public dispute at church and it went viral. I was discussing it with a friend and I said that the issue they were having should not have happened on a day of worship, in the house of the Lord and certainly not on the pulpit (the pastor invited the man to air his grievances on the pulpit in the presence of the congregation. Apparently it is something that the pastor does regularly) anyway, my friend made reference to Acts 17:17, but I don’t think it applies in this situation of the pastor and the man I am telling you about.