What preaching clichés annoy you the most?

Happy Monday morning! An open post. Feel free to vent (or confess) and I’ll allow anonymous comments for this entry.

What preaching clichés annoy you the most?


Categorized as Preaching

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. Hmmm. Don’t know if this is a cliche or a trope–or a cliched trope–but what first came to mind was the, “here’s what happened to me, now let me tell you why my fascinating life and my deeply profound insight about it is of universal significance,” cliche. This in lieu of biblical, theological, psychological or any other sort of research, or concentrated thought outside of one’s own experience. Perhaps I’ve missed the import of your question, but this what I thought about and, of course, I’m sure you and your readers will find it as interesting as I do.

  2. @ Steve – Your viewpoint is interesting. Back when I took my preaching class (sometime between 2002-2004), I got heavily criticized by the 2 faculty members for not using any personal stories in my sermons. They told me that without the sharing of personal experience, the spoken ministry becomes theoretical and purely academic.

    And yet, years later I’m left wondering about the dangers of “isogesis” (the interpretation of the self).

  3. Derek, you raise a good point. I probably overstated my original response. For me, it is a question of balance; my own little metaphor is garlic in a dish of food. Just enough garlic enhances the dish, makes it more savory and satisfying; too much and–GARLIC! I use small personal anecdotes and illustrations often, (just enough, I hope) but they are not the sum and substance of the entire sermon, which I have seen done all too often in UU circles. One of the Niebuhrs, I believe, is credited with “Prepare your sermons with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” Certainly, personal experience, judiciously applied, can and should also part of a good sermon.

  4. When a minister (particularly a UU minister) ends a sermon with “May it be so. Amen.” (or some variation of that) as if he or she were patting themselves on the back, or trying to say “Tadah!!! How’d you like them apples?” in a more sophisticated way. It’s just weird. When you end a sermon, just end it. There’s no need to attach a wish to the end of it.

  5. Oh, DJD, I can’t stand that!

    I’m also loathe to hear a term be defined as a way to get a sermon started. Double hit points if it’s a dictionary definition. Define worship as “ascribing worth” and you’d might as well bury me.

  6. Starting a sermon with a prayer for the words of their mouth and meditations of their heart and blah blah blah. That’s up to you and God, preacher, and I don’t need to hear it. The sermon SHOULD get all of us in touch with God just fine on its own without calling attention to it first (“YO! OVER HERE!! I’m preaching, God, this is for YOU, man!!”).

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