Never Say This to Your Pastor Before the Sermon

by Jul 4, 2019

A few weeks ago I was connecting with people in our congregation before preaching Sunday morning. Things were going well and I was feeling pretty energized by engaging in good relationships. Even the conversations I had with folks that were struggling was fueling my fire for preaching. 

Then it happened – a woman approached me and said these five dreaded words: “Can I tell you something.” I was hoping she was going to tell me how excited she was about the message she was about to hear or that she had been praying God would do something powerful in the service. I was hoping for almost anything except the complaints she made concerning what we were doing wrong and how she would suggest changing them.

Now, don’t misunderstand what I am saying: this woman actually had some valid points and made some suggestions that are worth thinking about. But she had really bad timing in making her comments. Quite honestly, she picked the worst possible time to share her complaints. Right before a person stands to proclaim God’s Word and deliver a message to God’s people is not the time to dump your negativity. Yes, sometimes negative comments need to be communicated. But the best time for this communication is during the week when your pastor has the emotional bandwidth to process the problem. 

The woman who complained before the service actually did find me after the service in an attempt to encourage me. I guess she was trying to pull the sword out. I appreciated what she tried to do, but I couldn’t help but wish she had done it before the service.

I’m sure this sounds like a whiny pastor problem, but words have a lot of power. They have power for everyone, not just pastors. What you say, how you say it, and when you say it are all important considerations for communicating. Proverbs 12:18 says, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Boom! The words you say have power to cut people or to heal people. Choose what you say and when you say it very carefully. Whenever possible, especially when a person is about to speak or teach, choose life giving words and words filled with encouragement. 

Several months ago I had another woman approach me before the service who said, “Can I share something with you?” I said, “Absolutely.” She then proceeded to tell me that she believed God had a word for our congregation from my message and wanted to pray for me if I didn’t mind. How do you think I felt after those words and a short prayer? Needless to say, I could have gone bear hunting with a switch. Those simple encouraging words were powerful: they energized me!

Having preached almost every week for thirty years, I can tell you that pastors need encouragement before they preach. If you have something that needs to be addressed that isn’t very positive (especially if it isn’t urgent) it can wait, and it should wait. There is a time and place for everything. Let the time before the service be reserved for encouragement.

Impact Discipleship Ministries exists to help churches and people be and build disciples. If you need resources and tools for disciple making check out our website at

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