When You Sin While Preaching
by Bill White
Leadership Journal 5/22/2009 www.leadershipjournal.net
The author explains that it is possible that a pastor might sin while preaching. White explains that every pastor is susceptible to failings such as anger, doubt, vanity, and exaggeration. White says that when we realize that we have stumbled into unholiness while preaching, there are some things we can do immediately. Praying through the pauses is one suggestion that White gives. This to me would be the easiest of his suggestions to implement. If there is a pause for effect or just a breath in between sentences, that would be the most likely time to ask for forgiveness. White gives an example of one Sunday when he was preaching, he looked at someone in the congregation and his mind pulled up some bad thoughts that he had of that person. I would hope that a pastor would be humble and broken before stepping into the pulpit. Sin of both commission and omission should be dealt with before opening Scripture and preaching from it. White said that the Spirit convicted him immediately. Instead of bringing his sin to the attention of the congregation, he waited for a break in the message and silently asked God to forgive him. He said that dealing with that sin right then helped him to continue on and finish the message. Another suggestion is to stop and have prayer in the moment. White gives another example of how one of the church’s pastors felt conviction to preach something to the congregation and he feared telling it to them. So, instead of committing the sin of omission, the pastor in the middle of the sermon and asks the congregation to pray with him. White does acknowledge that doing something like this is very risky. I would have to agree with that. White said in that instance that the prayer did not distract from the sermon, however, it possibly could. It probably has a lot to do with your congregation and how spiritually mature they are. I am not sure that something like that could work in all churches. The author continues that thought with saying that stopping to pray in the middle of the sermon helps the pastor to flee from temptation. He advises not to draw attention to the sin in the prayer but that you allow it to help change the spiritual tide of the pastor’s heart. The last suggestion is that the pastor asks for forgiveness. This too is also risky. White gives an example in 2008 when he wrapped up the message and gave the invitation. He said that he was frustrated at the lack of openness that he saw within the church. He gave the invitation and then during the invitation through a sarcastic stab at married couples that did not respond. He paused and asked for forgiveness from the congregation and proceeded through the invitation. He said that it was a good day for prayer at the altar. White closes the article with saying that such a confession has to be immediate. Sometimes, the Spirit convicts us and we have to think about and wrestle with what to do about it. He says that Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 2:17, “we speak in Christ, in the sight of God.” That makes God our primary audience. White says that when we sin while preaching, our primary audience knows it all too well. White says that he does not want to risk losing what he needs to preach an effective message, God’s presence and power.
I am not sure that I fully agree with White. I research my message and read the Scriptures multiple times. I do my best to have all sin both omission and commission confessed before stepping into the pulpit to preach. I believe that the pastor has to be clean when preaching because God does not use dirty vessels to get his message across. I am not sure I know what it is like to sin while preaching. I have had a few occasions where our female students had some modesty issues and they wore some shirts that drew attention to a place it should not have. I immediately diverted my eyes and continued preaching. My wife and I had to talk to some of the girls about modesty and we rarely have an issue unless it is with a visitor. To stop mid-sermon and pray does not seem smart to me. I would have to have done something really bad to stop and pray in the middle of the sermon. I also do not think that would go well with my style of communicating. I also would hope that I would not say something in the message or the invitation to risk looking like a complete moron to where I would have to ask forgiveness from the congregation. I hope that if I ever did something to where the Holy Spirit convicted me while preaching, I would pause and silently ask God to forgive me.