7 Deadly Sins of Guest Preaching

So you’re invited to preach at someone else’s church. Or a conference. Or a chapel service. The venue doesn’t really matter. What does matter is not committing one of the seven deadly sins of guest preaching.

7 Deadly Sins of Guest Preaching

Preaching in front of your own church is way different than being a guest preacher. Preaching at “home” means you know the audience. You know how to apply the text and to whom. As a guest, you just don’t know. Consequently, these deadly sins will keep you from communicating effectively to your audience.

Sin 1: “This is my smokin’ hot wife”

Do. Not. Say. This.

Ever.

Ever, ever. (Seriously)

It’s disrespectful to your wife and it’s awkward for the audience. Honor your wife; don’t sexualize her. It goes without saying too: never say this to an audience filled with teenage boys.

Sin 2: Travel Itinerary Intro

Don’t give a rundown of how long it took you to get to the conference. It’s boring. No one in your audience really cares how long it took for you to fly out there. What they need is an effective introduction which grips their imagination.

Sin 3: No contextualization

Once you get into the message, it’s deadly to lack contextualization. Don’t preach in New York City like you’re speaking at a rural Kentucky church. Don’t preach like Tim Keller to a country church. Adapt your style, illustrations, and applications to the setting. Lack of sensitivity to the context will alienate your audience. Don’t be a selfish preacher.

Sin 4: Canned Messages

A “canned” message is a sermon preached more than two times. It’s deadly. Not only for the audience, but also for your own soul. Why? Preaching canned messages often involved “going through the motions.” You’re preaching to preach. Pushing yourself to preach new material will drive you back to the text and desperate reliance on God.

guest preaching quote - Chris Pascarella

Sin 5: Mentioning that you visited Israel

Mentioning obscure geographical points rarely aids in communicating God’s truth. It also seems kind of braggy. People need to the hear the gospel every time, not how awesome your vacation was.

Sin 6: Lack of Focus

Since you’re a guest preacher, the audience doesn’t know your style, cadence, or rhythm. You need to be easier to follow than normal. Loading up on Scripture passages may be a great way to confirm your points, but it’s also a way to confuse people and get them distracted from the main passage. If it’s hard for YOU to flip through to different Scriptures, then it’s near impossible for your audience. Stick to one passage and one main theme.

Sin 7: Humblebrags

Humblebrags are still bragging. Don’t make yourself the hero of your stories. Jesus is. Don’t name drop what other awesome pastors you’ve gotten to visit. Or how you went backpacking with some famous worship band in Israel (see sin 5). Boast in Christ, not your abilities.

Stay away from these deadly sins and have your next guest preaching opportunity go better than you ever imagined!

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Written by Chris Pascarella

I am a pastor at Lincroft Bible Church in Lincroft, NJ. I graduated from Southern Seminary with an M.Div in 2013. I like the New York Football Giants, coffee, and watching TV (don't judge me).