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4 Reasons I Won’t Listen to Shouting Pastors

angryI like to think of myself as a sensible and sensitive person. If I visit your church and it turns me off, I’ll politely sit through the service. I’m not going to make a scene by standing up and walking out—with one exception. I’m walking the moment you start yelling from the pulpit.

I’m not talking about occasional bouts of passion. I’m addressing the aggressive, screaming that you can find behind many American pulpits. I know there’s some historic precedent for the preaching of “fiery” sermons. But here are a couple reasons I don’t have the patience to sit through a shouting pastor.

1. Shouting complicates authority issues

There are already unsettling questions about clerical authority. When you’re instructing a passive audience in an aggressively forceful manner, you’re communicating much more than whatever point you’re trying to make. Think about it. Who else in our lives shouts at us to make a point? A parent at the end of their rope? A terrible boss?

With a perceived power imbalance, shouting communicates domination. On any given Sunday, a minister never knows the complete history of people listening to him. If you were raised in a household full of aggression and yelling, having an authority figure screaming at you for 20 minutes creates an incredible amount of anxiety.

2. Shouting confuses people about God’s disposition toward them

Many people sit in churches around the world assuming the minister’s speaking on God’s behalf. Even though we need to regularly communicate that this isn’t the case, pastors still need to understand that people listen with this mindset.

How we’re communicating is just as important as what we’re communicating.

The “prophet” mindset that encourages some church leaders to shout at congregants about their sin and God’s unhappiness may encourage attendance, it might even get people to feign obedience, but it will drive many of their hearts into hiding and away from God.

3. Shouting increases aggression toward outsiders

Much of the time, shouting from the pulpit is aimed at all of those sinners “out there.” Not too long ago I sat through a shouted sermon about sinners which included pejorative terms like “homos” and “retards.” I didn’t have the luxury of walking out, so I sat there clinching my teeth and struggling with tears.

It’s bad enough that we sit in church and feed this “us vs. them” mentality, but when we do so with that level of aggression, it sets the tone for how people interact with those with whom they disagree. There’s no reason we should, whether intentionally or not, encourage hostility toward anyone.

4. Shouting isn’t a substitute for persuasive instruction

Aristotle laid out the three important parts of rhetoric:

  1. Ethos: The value of the speaker’s credibility
  2. Pathos: The appeal to the listener’s emotions
  3. Logos: The logical structure of an argument

Church is one of the few places where speakers regularly neglect the other modes of persuasion to focus on passion. It makes sense, it’s easy to appeal to emotions, especially when you’re talking about something so incredibly important to people.

In the end, it’s a waste. There are a lot of people who go to church regularly who are trained to only think and communicate about their faith with intense emotionalism. If you’re going to teach, do so. It’s lazy and ultimately counter intuitive to settle for getting people worked up.

It’s funny. Where else can you get by as a speaker just focusing on intense passion? As my friend Rich says, “Let’s see them try and pull that crap at Toastmasters.”

I hope I get to visit your church someday. Just know—the minute you start yelling at me, I’m gone.

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. This goes double for Christian bloggers who can’t make a point without caps lock, right?

    I still remember the first time I heard a screaming preacher. I was four years old, and my two-year-old brother kept asking Dad why the guy was so mad. For us, the delivery was a big distraction from the message.

    Love the nod to Edwards.

    January 1, 2014
  2. I think I would walk out if a preacher used derogatory words like “homo.”

    January 2, 2014
  3. “Ad Homonym”

    1 : appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect. (could be a shouting preacher)

    2 : marked by or being an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the contentions made. (Could be you for not listening to them just because of their volume). Don’t forget God told Isaiah to shout (Is. 58:1)

    January 2, 2014
    • Thanks for the comment. I’m pretty familiar with ad hominem. I don’t think not wanting to be yelled at counts.

      January 2, 2014
  4. Nice post Jayson! But I would add that I used to attend an African-American Church where the sermons were more spirited and loud than those I remembered from the pasty white church of my childhood. Loudness is less problematic than aggressive, demeaning rhetoric you describe. I sat through sermons with lots of shouting (from the pulpit and the pew) but the effect was designed to be encouraging not shaming.

    January 2, 2014
    • Yep. You’re right. It isn’t a volume/enthusiasm thing. Thanks for the comment!

      January 3, 2014
  5. Well stated, Jayson. I once read that Don Stewart (of A.A.Allen fame) changed his preaching method in order to adapt to the times. He was used to preaching in tents, but he found his style of yelling and shouting didn’t work on television. So during the ’70s, he spent more time “teaching.”

    January 3, 2014
  6. I think that the less pastors have to say, the louder they say it.

    Also, some pastors seem to think that yelling is proof of being filled with the Holy Spirit….

    January 3, 2014
    • I could not agree more. I think that screamed enthusiasm is often used as a surrogate Spirit.

      January 3, 2014
  7. @ Jeremy: I agree. When I was a student at East Coast Bible College, Dr. Ken Bell used to say, “The power is not in the thunder, but in the lightening.:)

    January 3, 2014
  8. thecampwhisperer #

    Someone had to say it. Too bad none of the shouting preachers probably read your blog. *Sighs dramatically*

    January 3, 2014
  9. M4Faith #

    Well said; I concur.

    January 4, 2014
  10. I’ve just come across this.
    If a preacher used words like homo or retard I’d be out of there even if it was said softly.

    May 31, 2014

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