10 Guidelines for Avoiding Indecent Exposure in the Pulpit

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Sermon illustrations should be like letting sunlight into a window, not like putting a spotlight on a stage.

To illustrate is to shed light on a subject. Illustrations are like windows in a house: They let the light in, but they can also let in voyeurs, seeking to eye the forbidden.

Voyeurism is not just the vice of those who want to see what they should not see. It is also the vice of those who want to show what they should not show.

There is no place for voyeurism in the pulpit. Sermon illustrations should be like letting sunlight into a window, not like putting a spotlight on a stage.

Here are 10 guidelines for avoiding indecent exposure in the pulpit.

1. Thou shalt not embarrass thy neighbor.

When I got married, Crystal gave me blanket permission to use anything I thought was appropriate or helpful. She had one qualification: “Don’t embarrass me.”

I strive to keep this one commandment. So should you. Don’t say anything that will embarrass your family and friends. Don’t criticize, settle scores or take shots from the pulpit.

Affirm, don’t embarrass.

2. Think twice.

Many inappropriate things are said in preaching spontaneously. We just don’t think about it before we say it. This is why you should write out your messages. And as much as you can, stick to the script.

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If you stray from what you prepared, and it includes a personal reference you have not thought through, think twice.

3. Do not boast.

You should not use illustrations about what you drive, where you live, what designers you wear, how much money you have, who you know or anything else that conveys you have it going on.

Don’t use the pulpit to brag about material things!

4. Ask permission.

A simple way to stay out trouble is to ask permission before you mention someone from the pulpit.

Get permission first, and you won’t have to get forgiveness later.

5. Do not use illustrations from counseling sessions.

Church members do not confide in pastors (or other members) because they fear their private business will broadcast. “Please don’t talk about me from the pulpit,” they plead.

Your people should trust their discussions with you are confidential. You undermine this confidence when you use counseling conversations as pulpit material.

H.B. Charles, Jr. H.B. Charles, Jr. is a pastor, speaker, and writer. He lives with his wife and children in Jacksonville (FL), where he serves as the Senior-Pastor of the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church.

More from H.B. Charles, Jr. or visit H.B. at http://www.hbcharlesjr.com

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  • Dannykumi

    This is instructive and very true. Thanks for highlighting them.

  • Costa K

    Great article. Very encouraging and thoughtful. Well done.

  • http://www.facebook.com/winnie.graham.7 Winnie Graham

    The lord didnt teach us to Preach but he did teach us to Pray . The lord prayer /hmm I can hear you sayng it in your heart and mind . Step’s to live and be guided by for sure Thankyou Andrew Murray .Thankyou Holy Spirit ,thankyou Father ,thankyou Jesus !!

    • jeffaa

      Are you saying He did not, or does not teach us to preach? God continues to instruct His childrens’ hearts in all matters of faith, including preaching.

  • ruth

    great article, i luv it. God bless you

  • chandramohan

    Good points for Prs

  • PM

    Great article

  • Rodney of Philippines


  • mawizuala

    This is really very useful to examine ourselves
    Thank you

    • Ruth

      very insightful. it has changed my sermons

  • Bro Gordon

    Well I guess I’m gonna be the odd man out. I found some truth in the artcal but the biggest thing I see Is where are we letting the Spirit of God lead us. But the way I see it is if we are letting the Sprit lead us than we won’t say anything that God wouldn’t want us too. I encourage the ppl where I serve at to always mind The Lord and if they have a testimony to let it out. I couldn’t imagine only doing it once or twice a year. Don’t get me wrong there was some things said that I agree with like its not about us but Jesus and how we shouldn’t be the hero. But I see so many ppl taking the Spirit out of the church and that’s why we are where we at at today.

    • jeffaa

      Bro Gor. The Spirit leads when He has a leash one us, not the other way around. What H.B. Charles is talking about is just that. A Spirit-led life is a Spirit-tempered life, not a wild fire. What he says here represents Spirit led preaching, being led by Spirit. It takes discipline to be properly led, not a spontenious senesory experience.

      • Dave Ekstrom

        And I have a tough time telling the difference between the Spirit and me–especially when I’m talking live about something I’m passionate about. The Spirit doesn’t knock us down and take over. We are filled with the Spirit, not possessed by the Spirit.

  • ServantHeart2012

    Don’t use the pulpit (or blogs like this one) to disparage other churches. Whether you believe they are wrong by being the “big bad mega-church” or the “tiny little inwardly focused” church, don’t bad mouth them. It won’t change them one bit, and it will make you look like a bully or worse, a fool.

    • jeffaa

      Don’t bad mouth them? I agree. Correction is another matter. All to often we give
      the “church” a pass on errant behavior for a lack of willingness to address its faults. Read Revelation. There is plenty there to clean from. If the “Church” is not its own best critic, then the world will be, and most likely by going to hell outside its embrace.

  • ruth

    Thank you for this piece

  • mbaladez3

    Great advise, not only for preachers in the pulpit, but those who choose to use media as a way of sharing messages of Christ and testimonies. I’m printing this one out for my own reference!

  • deandeguara

    Good points. Ask your kids too about using them in illustrations..especially when their teens.

  • Circuit Rider

    Excellent article! After 55 years of preaching, I’ve made almost every mistake that can be made. But because of sage advice, when I was in my first pastorate, by an older pastor I have always been careful of illustrations. Hopefully I have not made those listed, but I may have invented a few nobody else had made.

  • Pastor Spencer

    Excellent advice

  • http://www.facebook.com/osmond.owusu Osmond Owusu

    The more preachers spend quality time with the Lord Jesus in passionate prayer, the less pitfalls they will have in the pulpit.

  • jeffaa

    Excellent! Wish I had been given this instruction 20 years ago. Thank you!

  • Deana Callins

    From the Beginning their has been a war for the “Souls” of man. Between God and the devil. The Great Commission from God to the saints was with his spirit, we have the ability and power to help one another. Help those who are sick(suffering from dis-ease, deeply disturbed, disgusted by an excess of excuses, weak, broken down, delicate, and suffering from poor health). There are more people sick in their soul; than in hospital beds. If their sick, then their also poor. Poor(lacking in quality; love, affection, education(spiritual, knowledge, and understanding) hope, guidance. Poor meaning inferior, pitiful, below par, forgotten man, second class, under dogs, needy. If God is in so many christians. Why do you see so many sick people. Should not they Lift up a standard against the adversary. But we cant do that if were too busy, distracted, or struggling ourselves within. We must be effective in winning souls. And like Jesus, it takes Love, Action, and Focus on the purpose in which we were called and sent.

  • ceebee

    Very wise guidance…thank you.

  • Titus Asifat

    I love this posting vary educative and inspiring as usual, thank God for your life.

  • Marsha Smith

    Thank You for this nugget of wisdom. This article is a keeper!

  • chris Olajide

    The teaching is very good it expose some of our mistake as oastors

  • http://www.facebook.com/bwojnar Bohuslav Wojnar

    Very, I mean very true, good and helpful. Especially the last sentence. Yes, it is not about us, it is about Him. We preach Him, not ourselves. Thank you for that article.

  • Dave Ekstrom

    excellent! thanks!

    I don’t know how many times I said something stupid and it has almost always been in my “off-the-cuff” remarks. Especially when saying something I felt I had to say. Saying the right thing the wrong way is essentially saying the wrong thing.

  • Nads

    Very helpful

  • mom

    And that is the reason I do not spill the beans on every season in my life that I’ve had. It would embarrass my family to bits.

  • Tim

    Great advise pastor! Thanks! The people at SMBC are blessed to have wise leadership. I’m a young pastor and love to read articles like this. I have soooooo much to learn

  • http://www.facebook.com/gmukabwa George Mukabwa

    Iam a young preacher in Tanzania and I believe thus is what we need to reform our preaching. Too much Chung is on the pulpit. I choose to make this my bible school lesson. Thanks.

  • AJ Bouie

    Great article H.B.!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Emeka-Chuks-Obinnwa/1427334625 Emeka Chuks Obinnwa

    Magnificent, Spot on. To God be the glory!

  • Pianoplayer

    Please refrain from using “slang” words or terminology in the pulpit….or at all for that matter. As example: There are words that were “catchphrase” when I was a teenager in the 80s. I remember the first time I remarked that a guy was a “stud” in front of my Mama. The exasperated look on her face was only the beginning of my vocabulary lesson! She had me look up “stud” in the dictionary (which was probably published in the 50s by the way…) and read aloud the definition which was mainly about “a Daddy horse.” I have 2 teenage sons now that commonly ask me “what does _____ mean?” which my standard answer is “if you don’t know….don’t use that word.” I may know what a particular term meant in 1985 but it doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing now. I’ve heard young preachers say from the pulpit that “so-in-so is the bomb!”; refer to the beauty of Joseph’s coat as “totally sick”, and describe Solomon’s palace as “pimped out”. It’s not just the twenty-somethings that are guilty of slang mishaps. Hearing the forty- or fifty-something aged preachers use this slang gets plenty of laughs from the teens. My 15 year old son approached me when a visiting preacher used an expression he shouldn’t have. I’m sure Bro. Visitor said this term meaning “friends who meet up in town to congregate” but the youth of today interprets this saying to mean “friends who are not boyfriend and girlfriend that get together for casual sex.” Slang like “groovy”, “far out”, and “gag me with a spoon” or “swizzle my dizzle” etc do not make older folks look cool to the kids and give the older folks reason to wonder if the speaker is having a midlife crisis. My mother hyperventilates every time she hears someone say “screwed up” because to her generation this refers to “fornication”….please don’t say it in the pulpit. “Catch my drift?” Ha!