The very fact that made up stories in the pulpit are even called “preacher stories” is the first hint that something isn’t right. Wouldn’t you hope, in an ideal world, that if the preacher says it you could trust it? About seven years ago in Millington we had different guys coming in to preach on Sunday nights. One week the preacher started with a story about the last church where he was guest preaching. A guy came up to him after his sermon, shook his hand and told him it was the worst sermon he ever heard. The preacher was stunned that someone would be so honest but took it in stride. But then he saw them man make his way to the back of the line to greet the preacher again. He told the preacher a second time how bad his preaching was. About that time one of the elders came up to him and said, “Don’t worry. All he does around here is repeat what he hears everyone else saying.” He got a good laugh out of the story and warmed up the crowd to start his sermon. But would you believe that the very next week the next preacher on Sunday night started with the very same story as if it happened to him!
I am not a big fan of “preacher stories.” These are those stories that aren’t really true but a preacher will tell it like it really is. What is more, like the example above, these stories are often told as if they are from personal experience. Now some preachers really do have lots of stories from personal experience that are legit. I’m not talking about those. I think it is important that what we have to say is from the heart and honest. I don’t think we have to make things up to be effective or tell someone else’ story (or even someone else’ made up story) as if it is our own. It is hard to preach to people you don’t know and often people want to start with some humor but if it is a joke it doesn’t hurt to say it is a joke. If it is someone else’ story, it doesn’t hurt to cite where you heard it or say that you heard such and such one time. In fact, I think that gives you even more credibility because people know that you mean what you say and can trust that you are real.
Do you use preacher stories? What is your rationale?