Mistakes Ministers Make

Since retiring I have had the privilege of listening to many more ministers than when in full-time pastoral work, and have enjoyed and appreciated some excellent exposition.  However, probably because of the years in the pastorate, I have become more sensitive to mistakes that ministers make, some of which no doubt I made myself in earlier years.  My motive in writing about these mistakes is not just to be critical, but to help younger preachers to avoid errors which may hinder their ministry.  These matters may seem obvious or elementary to some people, and they are.  But as these problems do exist it is as well to expose and if possible eliminate them.

I.  Pitfalls in a preacher’s public prayers.

1.  Some preachers fall into the trap of telling God things because they want to pass on information to their congregation.  An extreme example is the man, not a preacher this time but a participant of a prayer meeting, who said in his prayer, “Doubtless you read in the paper this morning, Lord,…”  But it was a preacher who reminded the congregation in his sermon, “As I told you in the long prayer…”  The answer to this problem is obviously to pass on necessary information about the subject of prayer before actually addressing the Almighty.

2.  A variety of this error is preaching to people in prayer.  The famous evangelist, D. L. Moody, is  reported to have interrupted a man who was leading in prayer by saying, “Open your eyes, brother, you are preaching, not praying.”  This, of course, is an abuse of the holy privilege of prayer, and not worthy to be called such.  We must resist the temptation to get points across to the congregation in our prayers.  Still worse, is actually criticizing people in prayer.

3.  Some earnest preachers, in an understandable effort to impress their sermon upon the hearers, have formed the habit of re-preaching their sermon in the closing prayer.  Some even go to the lengths of givng all the main points and even sub-points in the guise of prayer.  Don’t do it!  It is not only an insult to God, it is wearisome to the congregation.

In most of these cases the men concerned probably do not realize that they have fallen into a bad habit.  It has become the natural thing for them to do. We need to examine ourselves, perhaps listen to a recording of our prayers, and remember that in prayer we are addressing the almighty, omniscient God, not the congregation.


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