10 Reasons I Don’t Use Negative 10-Point Lists In Preaching or Blogging

10 (2)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 Would 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


So what do you think? Do you have anything positive to add or are you going to keep complaining, like me?

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(10 photo from WoodleyWonderWorks • Flickr • Creative Commons)

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9 thoughts on “10 Reasons I Don’t Use Negative 10-Point Lists In Preaching or Blogging”

  1. I think if your sermon points are consistently negative this is problematic. Still, sometimes being biblical requires negative bullet points (10 commandments, Acts 15 verdict of Jerusalem Council). God does not always immediately affirm. Sometimes (often) he initially warns and then develops His “bullet point” with the positive alternative that He wishes to bless. “Thou shalt value life” is a wonderful truth but it does not convey exactly the same message as “Thou shalt not kill.”

    1. I agree, Dave. God does not always immediately affirm. The resurrection requires the cross, and the reason for the cross is our sinfulness. No question. An awareness of sin and the need for repentance is a necessary part of preaching. My point in this post wasn’t that we shouldn’t point out negatives, but that the inverse logic of “10 things that are wrong with…” can sometimes be problematic. Especially if overused, as you said. Plus, the intentional irony of me using a negative ten-point list to point out my distaste for negative ten-point lists was also my way of saying that my feelings on the matter aren’t something that even I take too seriously.

      I also agree with you that reframing the 10 Commandments using only positive statements strips them of much of their power and intent. But, as a minor side point, even the 10 Commandments aren’t all negative. Keep the sabbath holy and honor your father and mother are framed more positively than negatively. The rest, however… watch out!

      The bad news always comes before the good news in scripture. That’s what makes the good news so good.

  2. I just started reading a new book – “The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make”, by Hans Finzel. This actually is very scriptural and gives helpful positive points to ponder. I just thought it was interesting that you came out with this blog after I started this book.

  3. YES!!!!! I couldn’t agree more!!!! As an educator I discovered, “People always answer the question!” If the questions ran in a negative direction the responses would also run in a negative direction. When the question was asked in a positive manner the responses ran in a positive direction. …As a Christian leader my goal is to build up and encourage. To accomplish that I deliberately work to illicit positive responses. Even in a negative situation, people will usually respond positively if the questions and discussion are shaped toward that end. Thank You for the article. You can be sure I’ll pass it on to my team.

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