Preaching Articles

A lot of bloggers and ministers like using negative 10-point lists as the basis for blog posts and sermons.

Some that I’ve run across include:

"10 Reasons Your Church Isn’t Growing"

"10 Practices Healthy Pastors Need to Avoid"

"10 Habits of Highly Ineffective People"

"10 Attitudes that Will Ruin Your Marriage"

"10 Ways to Raise a Boy You Wouldn’t Want Your Daughter to Date"

There’s nothing inherently wrong with writing or speaking that way, but I’ve never been a fan of it.

Here are my 10 reasons why:

1. It’s easy to say what's wrong with something without offering solutions.

2. The inside-out logic can be hard to follow.

(So you want me to do that or you don’t want me to do that?)

3. Lists can hide lazy writing.

(Not that I’d ever…)

4. Negative posts trigger negative responses.

5. They can be more discouraging than motivating.

6. I prefer knowing what to do rather than what not to do.

7. I get enough criticism; why should I sign up for more?

8. Some people are sarcasm-impaired.

(For an example, check out the smartly-written, tongue-in-cheek, "3 Reasons Why Rick Warren Is a Heretic," by Stephen J. Bedard, then scroll through his comment section. The sarcasm-impaired comments on Facebook were even worse. Ugh.)

9. Most people only read the 10 bullet points.

(But you wouldn’t do that, would you?)

10. The last point is usually filler.

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Talk about it...

Doug Lapointe

commented on Apr 8, 2015

This is good stuff. Thought provoking for all of us. And, it is fairly easy to almost have the SAME content without presenting that way. For example: Instead of saying "Do not curse." We can say "Use wholesome speech." Same point, no negative. Thanks for the article.

Tito Marcelo

commented on Apr 8, 2015


Robert T. Libey

commented on Apr 8, 2015

You forgot one: "Top 10 reasons I don't sing along in your worship service", a frequent and tiresome lament found in popular Christian publications and on social media these days. Good article; thank you for the exhortation to do better!

David Parks

commented on Apr 8, 2015

Outstanding. I think the "Top Ten" idea probably originated with David Letterman which should be enough to make us stop and question the practice.

Jo Vanh

commented on Apr 8, 2015

I think the idea came from the BIG top ten, 10 commandments. Thou shalt not ... thou shalt not this that...

Karl Vaters

commented on Apr 8, 2015

True, and it's a way better list than I've ever been able to come up with. But they weren't all negative. Two of them were positives. "Honor your parents" and "remember the sabbath."

Lawrence Ledford

commented on Apr 8, 2015

OK, You gave negatives to the negative top ten and stated for number one "1. It?s easy to say what's wrong with something without offering solutions." What give us some solutions :)

Karl Vaters

commented on Apr 8, 2015

Thanks for the comment, Lawrence. I'd say #6 answers that question. For more ideas, check out the "more from this author" link at the top of the post.

Terry Phillips

commented on Apr 8, 2015

Thanks. Interesting. Only this morning I was working on a sermon for Sunday on John 20. I started, "We can?t build much of a profile of Thomas". No, better: "We can build a slender profile of Thomas..."

Bryan Thompson

commented on Apr 8, 2015

Sarcasm or intentional irony? Same thing, I suppose. At any rate, this is pretty clever.

Karl Vaters

commented on Apr 8, 2015

Mostly irony. Glad you liked it.

Clyde Thomas

commented on Apr 8, 2015

Karl...You are always right on the money! Sometimes I start my Newsletter articles with: "For those of you who were not here last Sunday you missed a really incredible service!" After reading your article I went back and changed the negative tone of my writing. Thanks.....Clyde

Sandra Leightner

commented on Apr 10, 2015


E L Zacharias

commented on Nov 27, 2019

The irony, of course, is that you present us with a negative countdown. * We read them anyway--and they were dead on, * although now I really feel bad about myself. * jk. * Good job.

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