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The Four Worst Things I Have Seen In Church (and MORE IMPORTANT How They Could Have Been Better)

Evangelist Myers opens one of his messages with the statement, “The best of things that ever happened to me happened to me in church; the worst things I’ve ever experienced happened to me in church.” Unfortunately, his observations likely fit many people. It caused me to think of what I’d personally observed, and consider how each could have been handled in a better way.

 #1 – We were in “revival” in the deep south. It was less a revival than a series of services. One midweek, I’d  preached and the pastor was dismissing the congregation. Suddenly, the pastor went off – i mean really went off – raised voice, red face and veins popping – on going to play softball with a church league while the church was in revival. Turns out – one man of the 100 had missed revival to play softball.softball picture
I’m in sympathy with the pastor on the softball player’s incorrect priorities but  I’m also not in favor of everybody else in the church participating in the guy’s dressing down.  (I didn’t know who the fellow was, but almost everybody else knew exactly who the pastor was talking too.) It was humiliating for the fellow who had made a mistake and the pastor came off like a domineering shepherd.
 Jesus taught a better model of discipline.  I, even as a pastor, should go one-one-one to the person who is in error; addressing the concern with Biblical clarity. If there is no resolution of the matter then there are other steps of discipline. Confronting a thing directly gains respect; when one confronts it in a group the confrontation comes off as bullying. Those who bully people cannot also grow people.
Bad Experience #2 – While we were evangelizing in California, a small church had constant motion as people went to the rest-room.  Finally, the fellow leading the service called a “time out” to allow everyone who was thirsty or needed a bathroom break to go settle the matter. That service disintegrated into chaos with us never getting anything close to order.
A better way:  Practical things like how a bathroom visit affects others need to be taught to people at a time when there are not lost people present. The late George Glass Sr. often preached a sermon titled “Satan Among the Saints.”  Included in his description were those who left their pew to go to the nursery or to get a drink of water. He said such interruption does nothing except cause sinner people to be distracted.  Don’t take a time out – take time to teach practical things that matter.
Bad Experience #3 – Chained to Platform and Pulpit – I’ve seen this often. An opportunity is given for the church family to welcome guests but the pastor and other ministers stay on the platform and don’t go shake hands with guests. Are we afraid of people?  What an opportunity to connect.
The solution here is simple:  if guests are the most important people in the building then act like it.  Practice your smile and how to shake hands.  Get off the platform, go introduce yourself to people. We shepherds and church leaders are not “King Tut.”
ostrichBad Experience #4 Saddest of all is the church that has no affinity for newcomers as people who would be discipled. Looked over, talked over – ignored . . . and endangered.  John Wesley spoke of the danger of putting live babies in the arms of a dead corpse of a mother. New babies get special care in any home they are borne into – spiritual newborns deserve the same. God asked Job if he was around when the ostrich was created. The Lord spoke of the outstanding attributes of the ostrich; stands tall, runs fast.  God also spoke of the ostrich not caring for her young, laying eggs in the dust and not worrying whether or not wild animakenya african safari animal destination and travel beautiful animal eggs fresh_ostrich_hatching_eggs dangerous animal attacks news animal pictures
ls eventually destroyed the new born.   This catastrophe actually prompted me to write a book You Wouldn’t Want an Ostrich for Your Mama.
I sense the church is getting serious about reaching the world.  We are constantly learning from each other. What are the saddest things you have seen and what might you have done differently?

23 thoughts on “The Four Worst Things I Have Seen In Church (and MORE IMPORTANT How They Could Have Been Better)

  1. Pastors who have a special place set aside for ministry to sit apart from the general congrefation at church dinners and so on. One even had a separate room for them and their special guests to dine, while everyone else sat at tables in the gymnasium.
    Pastors who insisted the entire congregation stand and applaud while the ministry walked through the congregation and ascended to their lofty perch on the platform.
    Pastor that talks about giving on a regular basis while living a lifestyle that is far above that of any member of the church….lavish vacations, luxurious home, fancy clothes and always the latest gadgets, while parishoners get by on foodstamps and shop at the Goodwill store.
    Finally those that accept and even expect a lineup of men to wash their feet at footwashing service……completely opposite of the scriptural example demonstrated by Jesus who washed the disciples feet.

    1. Such things are tragic. In my work, I’ve treated church dinners as a place to mingle with the saints and guests. I’m generally one of the last people through the serving line. It has worked well for me. When evangelizing quite a number of decades back I preached for a fellow who had taught the people to stand in respect when he walked in. When I walked in, (all of 22 years old), they stood – it made me incredibly uncomfortable. All you describe deserves concern.

  2. Thank you for every thing you are doing for the furtherance of God’s kingdom. I am a long time saint. I think of a particular saying ” if everyone in the church was just like me, what kind of church would this church be”. Thank you again for your words of wisdom!

    1. I am thankful for “long time saints” that are making the church what it is today. Keep up the good work!

  3. One Sunday morning the church was full(home missions) maybe 40 people. My grandparents were visiting who were not in church. There was around 8 of us young women (teenagers) and suddenly our pastor asked us all to come up and line up across the platform. As we were lined up there he walked along in front of us and said if any knees could be seen we were not aloud back on the platform for any reason. Thank God, I was 14 and growing fast but mine was a proper length. I can’t say the same for all my friends. The evening service was our family and the pastors. At that time my grandparent said they’d never come back. Later years they did come into the church but none of those young ladies today, 50 years later are in the church except for me.

  4. We are a small church in a small town. We had a dear sister who was “established in truth”. We had a visitor that Sunday. She and her husband had started a church (trinitarian-charismatic) in our town several years ago. She was clearly wounded in spirit and was responding to the presence of God. We spoke (as I do often) on healing. After the service she felt secure enough to open up about her situation: Just as their little church was becoming stable her husband had a complete mental and physical breakdown. It too something like two years just for him to learn to walk and speak again. She had asked his parents to care for him for a while as it was becoming more than she could bear. We prayed with her and comforted her and it seemed like hope was emerging. At this time our dear sister jumped in with tears and said “Sister I have to tell you this in case we never see you again. THERE IS NO TRINITY! It’s wrong!” She was right about one thing. We never saw that lady again.

    1. Oh my. That is a sad story. Too often such behavior has the same outcome. Hope all is well with you.

  5. Brother Coon,
    I throughly enjoyed reading “The four worst things…” I’ve looked over and read your other writings also– this is a great blog and resource.
    Can anything new be said? I believe so! Also, old and sometimes forgotten truths can be presented in different packagings. A thought can be expressed from a different perspective, bring new insight to some, fresh encouragement to others and you have a unique way of communicating that all who read can relate in some way.

    C. S. Lewis said it first. Relating his intense struggle against conversion, he said, “A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere—God is, if I may say, very unscrupulous.”

    So keep writing and let God use you through your pen and preaching. There is a young pastor, church planter, or even a season minister that may find the help and encouragement they need. You’ve certainly been a blessing to me.

    Your friend,
    David Tipton

    1. Tip . . . you are just a great joy. You and Sis. Tip have been some of our “laughing friends” through the years. You never fail to encourage and to help me see things from a broader perspective.

  6. All of the things mention above is essential for a growing, caring, reaching church to consider, practice the good, we are in the people business, the purpose of the church in the earth and the purpose for having worship service is the to glorify God and to edify (build up the people).

    The assembly or worship service where the saints come together is and should be a spiritual hospital. The Pastor would be like the doctor and the saints would be like the nurses and other medical professionals. What if the doctor just talked down to all their patients and chewed them out for being sick and needing help, what if the nurses and other technicians treated all the patients like dirty laundry, what would happen to the Hospital? It would close its doors and people would die for lack of medical help.

    Another thing that bothers me is an Evangelist, Pastor or visiting minster that does not worship during the service, but yet when they are in the pulpit they want the saints worshiping with them as they preach. I have seen some even rebuke the saints for not responding to their message. They need to consider they are supposed to be the leader show the people how to worship.

    1. Ahhh my friend Bro. Hall – your observation about what I call “platform praise” (the evangelist, pastor, singer, etc.) who only gets with the program when it is his/her TIME on stage is a real challenge. God deserves better! Hope to see you soon. C. Coon

    2. Excellent point. MInistry must lead in all areas, modesty not just in dress but in lifestyle, prayer life, worship, giving, etc. I believe we could all improve in this area.

      1. Thanks for getting in on this discussion. I read that anybody who says something cannot be improved has simply not looked close enough. I sure have areas on which I should improve.

  7. I would say in my own observations would be a church have visitors and no greet or acknowledge the guest and the visitor never returns. I know this could have been better if the church would have greeted and acknowledge the visitor . It would also help if the church would have a greeter at the door. If we want our churches to grow we must be visitor friendly. I have noticed that being in a home mission church no one goes door knocking anymore or outreach. This too could help our churches grow.
    There is a song by Casting Crowns called If we are the body in one part of the song it says ” If we are the body then why aren’t His hands reaching?” Are we really reaching for the lost?

    1. Your observation about “reaching” is quite on point. I am not the most naturally outgoing person, but force myself to engage with new people. It really is a priority for this to happen. If, as a pastor, it is not my priority then it won’t be a priority for Calvary – Springfield either.

  8. When I read this, really only one story came to mind, a scarcity for which I’m grateful.

    When I was growing up, we were blessed to host foster children for a season in our home. I was a young girl when our first one joined our home. She was 17 and pregnant, had one more year in the system, then she’d be on her own. Sweet girl and, though she had some issues, no doubt, she never gave my folks a hard time about having to go to church with us.

    One Sunday, not long before she was to have the baby and leave our home, the tearful teenager went to the altar to pray during song service. As she stood there, unsure of what to do, a lady walked off the platform and told her to go back to her seat, that she’d have time to pray later and shouldn’t “interrupt” the service.

    She never went to the altar again while she was with us.

    How much better would it have been to either set aside the program, put an arm around a broken life and love her into the Kingdom then and there? Or if service needed to progress and it truly was a distraction to others, take her aside and pray in a prayer room–treat her as though she’s deserving of special, one-on-one attention, because she IS. “I’ve been praying for you that the Lord would give you a special blessing today. What God is doing right now is very important, and I’m so proud that you are yielding to His call on your life. Why don’t we go to a quieter room so we can pray together without the service interrupting what God is doing here?”

    Still brings tears to my eyes wondering what could have been. And maybe in the last 30 years, she has found her way back to an altar and connected with Jesus, at least that’s my prayer.

    1. Your story of the teen is sad. It is unfortunate but true that one moment’s foolish act can hinder someone for time and eternity. At the same time, you noting that their is only one story that comes to mind is encouraging. C. Coon

  9. 1. A constant thing that was done which I considered to be unethical was a pastor who used the pulpit as his personal soapbox. When election time drew near, whether it was local, state or federal elections, everyone knew who they were supposed to vote for! People come to church to hear about Jesus, not to see it used for political lobbying.

    2. Preaching against the Catholic church was another regular sermon topic. A number of times this was done in front of guests, none of whom returned….perhaps they were from the Catholic church. I don’t believe personal bias and opinion particularly about other denominations should be coming from the pulpit. In teaching church history, the things they have done which have impacted the church of today can be discussed but otherwise I think it can be offensive, especially to guests.

    3. I have seen saints rebuked in front of the church for giving a testimony that the pastor considered went on too long, or was in his opinion ‘ rubbish’. Needless to say no one, myself included wanted to give testimonies for a very long time. God wanted to use me in the gift of tongues and interpretation but I was so fearful of being rebuked that I wouldn’t. My husband would look at me when we were waiting for the interpretation and whisper, do you have it? I did but I would just look away. I was a baby in Christ and he was a general licenced minister so he knew. I confessed after this happened several times that I had kept saying in my head….not me Lord, not me.

    4. Pushing aside a young preacher in the middle of his preaching and rebuking him about something said in his message, telling the church it was wrong. It was not a matter of doctrine. This was done to several novice preachers, several times…’s a wonder any of them continued preaching.

    I believe all these things were done to control people and they are unacceptable. The last 2 are things that should have been discussed with the person in private. The first 2 should not be discussed at all from the pulpit.

    These are just 4 of a hundred things that have been done in church that I consider to be detrimental to people and to church growth.

  10. Good observation. My approach has always been to try to not deal with dirty laundry in front of company!

  11. I just finished reading your blog, and I enjoyed it. I’m not a pastor (yet); however, I have seen and observed some troubling things at church as well. One experience which happened last year came to mind that upset both my wife and me. During altar service, a pastor stopped the music and, over the pulpit, rebuked the church members for not praying with visitors. The visitors were still there and heard the whole rebuke (which included the words “I rebuke you!”). It was extremely uncomfortable, and I also felt that it killed any move of the Spirit during that service. One of the visitors actually approached me afterward and told me that he felt very uncomfortable and wanted an explanation if this was normal. I explained this was not normal but at the same time I skirted the issue (it was an awkward moment to say the least) and encouraged him to keep seeking the Holy Ghost. To my knowledge, he no longer goes to a truth preaching church.

    So, what could have been done differently?

    In my opinion, either the next midweek service or during a prayer meeting he should have taught a lesson on praying with others or an altar worker seminar emphasizing etiquette. To rebuke the church members during a time when visitors are seeking the Lord was totally uncalled for.

    That’s my two cents.

    1. Bro. Gonzales – well put. We have to be particularly careful when guests are around.

    2. Similar occurence at the end of an Easter service where Pastor went on a loud tirade about people disrespecting him because they weren’t being still when he told everyone to be still and listen to what he had to say. We had a number of visitors and they were all shocked…..pretty sure none of them ever came back or stuck around to shake hands with the preacher after dismissal…..I sure wouldn’t have.

      1. Such happenings are unfortunate. I’ve made a deal with the people I pastor. I’ll do my best to never embarrass them when guests are present. There are times when some things need to be addressed. That is what “saint’s meetings” are for. Such times are rather direct, “Come to Jesus” meetings.

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