confessions of a pastor: momentary lapses

more than twenty-five years of full-time ministry, at least two sermons (teachings, speeches, life-talks…call them what you will) per week, usually more.  i can safely say that i have spoken upwards of ten million words from behind a pulpit (lectern, sacred desk, platform…call it what you will).  when i think about it, it is only the bountiful kindness of a compassionate god that has kept me from significantly more momentary lapses. 

momentary lapse?  that’s when you say something and before the words have fully left your mouth and polluted the atmosphere, you realize that you’ve made a terrible mistake.  your brain hyper-shifts into damage control because you are faced with the momentous task of covering your very public mistake in a nanosecond.  a great deal of serious and permanent damage has been done by momentary lapses but, thankfully, i’ve been guilty of a mere handful of especially bad ones.  again, all glory and honor to our gracious god.

but don’t think there haven’t been a few.  this last weekend, for example.

i am not what you would call response oriented.  what i mean to say is that i pretty much say what i need to say, and it doesn’t matter to me whether people in the crowd are taking notes or napping.  i do what i feel like i’m supposed to do and leave the results to someone else with a higher pay grade.  on the other hand, i’ve known (and worked for) preachers who are extremely response oriented.  somewhere along the line we (preachers) developed the habit of saying “amen” with a question mark.  as in, “god is a good god…amen?”  obviously, that’s nothing more than a thinly veiled appeal for affirmation and i do not approve.  i mean, are we really that insecure?  i have resolved never to “fish for amens” (or any other type of affirmative response).

but last sunday i had a momentary lapse.

i was talking about the joys of summer (and, yes, i had a spiritual application).  i was talking about picking a tomato, fresh off the vine and still warm from the sun, and slicing it in thick slices to enjoy on a cheeseburger.  some of the fat guys in my congregation, moved by my erotic description of food, moaned out loud, “oh, yes…amen!” (as i knew they would).  i immediately realized that i had broken my “no amen fishing” pledge and that i had to apologize.  i said, “i’m sorry, i’ll do anything to get you to say ‘amen’…i’m such an amen whore.”  yes, i actually said it.  out loud.  and my mind immediately began racing to find a graceful way out (of which there was none).

okay, one more.

very early in my ministry, i was describing the culture shock of moving from southern california to small-town oklahoma.  i was recounting my first visit to the venable homestead to visit the parents of my girlfriend (the same dazzling beauty who is now my wife of thirty-four years).   mr. venable took me out with him to feed his cattle, and i was enthralled by the process.  he called them and they came waddling up to the barn, loudly vocalizing the entire way (it sounded like they were saying, “foooood!”).

as i was telling the story, i allowed my mouth to get ever so slightly ahead of my brain (a critical error!) and a momentary lapse occurred.  i said, “i really didn’t know anything about cows until i met my wife.”  go, brain, go!

so issue forth, fellow preachers.  tell us about your momentary lapses.


8 thoughts on “confessions of a pastor: momentary lapses

  1. Two classics.

    Did you actually come up with “amen whore?” If you did, congrats because it’s a really good one.

  2. When I was a college student I once mixed “Foul up” and “chuck it.” Not good. When preaching once I wanted to say “drill bit” but not once but twice said “Bill drit.” Didn’t realize it until people starting howling. Had a friend teaching a class of young people and after spending the weekend camping in tents, he said (and I quote): “We had fun pinching tits.” When he tried to correct it he said it again. Ever the jokester he said, “Oh you know. we put tents up and had fun.” As i sit here thinking, I have for the most part avoided big mess-ups from the pulpit. It is out of the pulpit that I have more trouble.

  3. Ok… I now have a very serious problem!!!

    I will never be able to sit through a sermon where the preacher says “Amen?” without hearing the words Amen Whore. How in the world will I not be able to crack up in what could be a very serious expository message?!

    Oh, Randy.. you got me in a tough position now. I am still chuckling.

    How did the congregation react to that interesting choice of words?

  4. By the way… your story about the cows reminded me of a reader’s digest Humor post. I will have to paraphrase to the best of my ability as it has been years since I read the story.

    A young, single farmer had his love interest over to his place and there walk around his farm eventually brought them to a fence that bordered the cow pasture.

    There was a large bull just yards in front of the couple who had deiced to get ‘romantic’ with one of the lady cows.

    The young farmer decided to seize the moment and use the present situation as a way to possibly hint at his desires for the young lady.

    As they watched on, he said “That sure looks like fun.”

    To which the young lady innocently replied, “Well… it’s your cow.”

  5. Trying to find a creative and complementary way to answer my wife’s question, “Do these jeans make my butt look big?” I uttered the following…”Honey, your butt doesn’t look any bigger in those jeans than any other pair you tried on today!”

    What I meant was, “Your butt looks great.” What she heard was…well, you know. Those words were uttered almost 10 years ago, and I still cringe about it when we go shopping together.

    As far as preaching goes, I have learned through experiences that when discussing the subject of Peter, it is wise to refrain from using adjectives such as strong and penetrating. Good for a laugh, but impossible to regain composure.

    My favorite, is from a preacher very close to me, who spent 10 minutes making the point that God uses people in a variety of packages. To make this point he continually referred to “Abrahams Package” over and over again. His packages was referred to as shrivelled, impotent, errect, and powerful. Needless to say, it was good this sermon predated Twitter.

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