Ed Young: The Cussing Pastor

June 3, 2009 by

Fellowship Church’s Ed Young sparked a conversation about pastors using profanity in this video. Before you get completely shocked, his definition of profanity is pretty broad, including words like “crap,” “screwed,” “hell” and presumably milder but still scatological (bathroom humor) words like “stinks” and “poopyhead.” Oh, and of course, “sucks.”

Now we’ve explained why we use “sucks” before and I’ve even offered my own personal philosophy of profanity (emphasis on personal–that’s my own opinion, not CFCC’s). I’m not sure it’s helpful for us to rehash that debate. You can watch Ed Young, read our take and decide for yourself.

What I do think is interesting is that Ed starts the video by accusing pastors who “swear” of doing it because they’re “chasing cool.” They’re swearing in order to be cool or relevant or hip. I find that hard to believe. I think it’s more likely that younger pastors are using what Ed considers profanity because for their younger generation it’s no longer considered profanity. That’s my two cents.

But what’s really important is this accusation of chasing cool. It’s somewhat ironic that the pastor behind a seven-day sex challenge where the congregation was encouraged to have sex every day for a week is accusing others of trying to be cool. The fact is, one person’s cool is another person’s relevant. One person’s relevant is another person’s reality. One person’s reality is another person’s damnation.

So what’s my point? I think we need to be careful when we start challenging other church leaders to do it the way we do it. Ed Young may think “sucks” is a swear word and be offended I use it. But my grandmother would be offended by a seven-day sex challenge. Taking offense at another Christian’s actions doesn’t automatically mean they’re in the wrong. It also doesn’t mean everything is admissible (this isn’t relativism 101). It’s a tough line to walk.

Perhaps the church needs to be less judgmental of one another and get worked up over more important issues. Getting mad over “sucks” or a sermon on sex seems kind of silly.

And, hey Ed? Drive safe.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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42 Responses to “Ed Young: The Cussing Pastor”

  • ryan guard
    June 3, 2009

    Hello pot, my name is kettle. Ed sets off my crap-detector alarm every time…
    I had a family leave my church years ago because I said “sucks” and “dang” during two different messages in my high school ministry. When I heard that’s why they were leaving I said, “Dang, that sucks…”
    I think most pastors who cuss are cheeseballs who can’t articulate well enough to make a point. They know they’re cussing, and they’re chasing cool like Ed. I know of one pastor who cussed during his youth ministry volunteer meeting to make a point. He said something about how kids are buying into a lie, then paused, then said “I just think it’s bull#$%@”. I thought it was a weak attempt to create some sort of emotion in the room.

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  • Laure
    June 3, 2009

    This whole discussion reminds me of something Tony Campolo said:
    “I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a $#!%. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said $#!% than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

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  • Ron Edmondson
    June 3, 2009

    Wow, I so much agree with your take. I felt a similar feeling to Ed’s video blog about the pirates in church planting.
    I can’t imagine one of the chief “cool” pastors of this generation accusing others of trying to be so. At least, in my opinion, Ed gives every impression of trying to be so.
    That being said, I like his cool and glad God uses it in the Kingdom.
    Ron Edmondson

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  • adam lehman
    June 3, 2009

    Check out Ed’s stage during worship. He’s chasing cool.

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  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    June 3, 2009

    “I like his cool and glad God uses it in the Kingdom.” -Ron
    Well said, Ron. I may or may not agree with you on the first part (who really cares?), but the second part is what’s important.

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  • Jon Allen
    June 3, 2009

    Frankly, I despise when pastors criticize other pastors for their style of ministry (assuming it is not a sin issue). It comes across as extremely self-righteous. Seems like we have a whole plank-eye situation going on.
    My personal philosophy is that vulgarity is unnecessary. Some may disagree with me… that’s okay. I don’t use that type of language because I don’t want to use any words parents don’t want their kids to learn. We have some kids who sit in our services so that is my decision based on my environment. I think each pastor is free to assess his own church and himself and determine if it is acceptable.
    Can a pastor use the word sucks in a message and it be sinful? Sure. Can a pastor use the word suck in a message and it not be sinful? Sure. It is (as with many things) a matter of the heart.

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  • brewster
    June 3, 2009

    This may be my favorite post of yours ever. I love your analogy about how one persons cool… brilliant.

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  • Chilly
    June 3, 2009

    I’m don’t know how (or why) we find the time to talk about other pastors and ministries instead of seeking and saving the lost.
    … ugh.

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  • klampert
    June 3, 2009

    I totally agree with brewster…This is probably the best post I have seen you do and on this site…spot on…not attacking…and perfect

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  • Ross Gellar
    June 4, 2009

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  • Jeromy
    June 4, 2009

    What is interesting is that Ed talks about using good words to preach the gospel. He didn’t seem to have very much joy in this video; seemed more bent on making someone else look bad. If I were Ed, I’d use all of my Youtube exposure time to “communicate the mystery, the joy, of the Gospel.”
    “I’m not being some prude, hey, I’ve heard all the stuff.” – not sure how that proves he isn’t being a prude. Since when does prude/not a prude apply to Christians? In the world’s view, we’re all prudes and we’re supposed to be found “without spot or blemish” so being a prude (as it is defined) is a good thing…

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  • John Enright
    June 4, 2009

    HELLO! The point of his post was about the standard we should set as ministers! Saying Crap, damn, hell, from stage during a message…how is that setting a standard? Does that mean it is now ok to go out and do everything else that the world does. It was a reminder that we are in this world, not of this world. We are called to be set apart, different, but it does not mean we still can’t be cool and relevant, just don’t cross the line of being confused with the world. Chasing cool isn’t a bad thing, conforming is.

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  • Rick Wilson
    June 4, 2009

    We have to be VERY careful here. If we define “righteous” behavior as what we DON’T do then the proactive aspect of the Gospel is lost. I’ve been in many Christian circles that were driven by don’ts lists where carnality was burning like wild fire. The greatest danger is a “sanitized” culture that looks clean and white on the outside but as Jesus said – you are “white washed tombs full of dead man’s bones.” Our “sanctified” Christianese is a much greater problem than what Ed calls “crude talk.”

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  • James
    June 4, 2009

    I think the question ultimately is whether the audience you’re trying to stimulate by using profanity (no matter how mild) is gaining anything by you using it.
    IMO, the non-Christian holds us to a higher standard of behavior. They expect us to not cuss, smoke, drink alcohol, etc. And when they see us doing those things, it negates whatever “cool” factor we might be trying to gain by engaging in such behavior. IMO, they’d rather see us living holy lives and being salt and light, than to see us play, “Dude, I’m just like you, man!”

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  • brent
    June 4, 2009

    I will sleep safer tonight just knowing that Ed Young has sworn off “chasing cool”.

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  • Ted
    June 4, 2009

    Typical Baptist preacher…

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  • Dan
    June 4, 2009

    I’m a sailor, so it might be no surprise to know that I cuss. But I don’t want to and I am working hard to reduce that to zero. Please, please don’t think that it’s a good idea, or relevant, or whatever, to cuss. It’s not. I live in a world where the non-cusser is the odd man out, and yet because I am a believer, I am held to a higher standard. I don’t care how relevant you want to be, cussing isn’t part of it.
    And just so you know…sucks and crap are not the way to chase cool. You’re going to have to kick your game up a notch or two to pull that off. It isn’t worth it.
    Stick with what works…clean language. The key is not to require clean language from others in order to build relationships with them that will lead to a chance to share the gospel.
    This is my opinion though, and thank you for letting me share it.

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  • Christian Steffen
    June 4, 2009

    Check out this musical version of The Cussing Pastor I found on YouTube. Hilarious. (Warning, it’s a bit explicit).

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  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    June 5, 2009

    Christian, I didn’t find that video very hilarious. I’m not sure telling Ed Young to go “f@#k himself” is very helpful. I certainly understand the frustration with Ed, but that kind of response isn’t going to get us anywhere.

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  • iHateChurch
    June 5, 2009

    Ed is from Dallas and that region is constantly searching for an identity… not east coast, not west coast and not a country cowboy…so what happens next…you try to emulate D…. all of the above.
    cussing is your own cup of tea… lots of different flavors.

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  • T. Salas
    June 7, 2009

    Interesting discussion. But everyone just seems to politely dance around, like “good little Christians.” What does “suck” mean? I mean, why don’t we just be honest and state where the that expression comes from? It has nothing to do with the fact that it is not considered profanity today. Lot’s of expressions are not considered to be considered “profanity,” but we know what they mean. What does “suck” mean? Suck what?

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    • Cantarella
      October 18, 2011

      I totally agree that people have missed what sucks really means. “Suck what”? “Stinks” would be a little cleaner.

      “Screwed/screwing” – ditto. I like the alternate, “tried/trying to get over on other people.”
      “Crap” – smelly, messy stuff. Poop,sh#t, manure. All about the same?

      I unfortunately swear a lot(remains of life B.C.) but am constantly working on it. I am not a Pastor but I occasionally lead worship. I use no swear words in an effort to be cool.

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  • Paul Wilkinson
    June 7, 2009

    I think a better question here would be, “Would the Apostle Paul do this?” I mean, here’s the guy who promoted the concept of relating to your audience in his sermon at Mars Hill (hmmmm) and talked about being “all things to all men in order to save some.” But he was a rather well-educated guy who had no need to resort to shock value to make a point.
    Another question would be, “What is the standard of language for your receptor audience?” If “crap” is normative — and I’m not referring to bad preaching, but the c-word itself — for that audience, then maybe it’s not such a big deal. Language does change over time, and “crap” is being used more widely.
    But if it’s stronger cussing, such as the word beginning with the sixth letter of the alphabet, that’s different; especially as for some who use it, it is an addictive behavior, so if YOU use it, you’re giving THEM permission to use it. In that case, it’s like having a drink with an alcoholic.

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  • Dennis
    June 9, 2009

    Hey, I think like any pastor like myself, we can miss it or not agree with it. All I can say is that he deserves a pass and not beat it in the ground. The other question I don’t see being asked much is, “Lord, is there a thread of truth in this?” Pray about it and then leave it there. Lord knows you all could fill a hundred blogs debating my preaching…

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  • A Ranting 27 Year Old Senior Pastor
    June 9, 2009

    I agree with Ed on this whole debate. Sure, I am not perfect and I have used profanity at times. I think the point he is trying to make is that as ministers we should hold ourselves to a higher level of discipline and strive to become better people. I am all for being relevant to the people we are ministering to but should we get to the point where we are acting the same way the people we are trying to reach? I say NO! I don’t have to drink a beer with someone just to get them to open up to the gospel. The same goes with sleeping with a prostitute to minister to a pimp! I can reach someone with the gospel by simply understanding where they are in life and showing them the love of God. Paul the Apostle didn’t go to Athens and act like the Athenians to reach them (some of you need to study it out) He saw a way to reach them while still keeping the ethics he had.
    I am not saying that we need to go back to wearing suits and ties on Sundays, I wear jeans and a t-shirt. I use media and modern music during my services. I am just saying, there is a line that needs to be drawn in our lives. A line that separates us from the world. The Bible teaches us to be in the world not of the world.
    I may have offended a few of you but maybe you need to be offended.
    A Ranting 27 Year Old Pastor.

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  • dewde
    June 24, 2009

    Ed has Southern Baptist tunnel vision. And I’m not talking about his theology, I’m talking about his culture. To the majority of the U.S., it’s only the reached people are offended by “bad language”.
    So if you want to saved the saved, keep on wasting time on this topic. If you want to introduce unreached people to Jesus, speak to them plainly, in their vernacular.

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  • Nathan Creitz
    July 1, 2009

    Christians ARE different from the culture. Our distinctives are what make us relevant. When we are just like the culture we are irrelevant because we are telling people they need to be transformed when we ourselves haven’t experienced transformation.
    A cussing pastor is enabling his congregation to be just like the world. Rather than calling them to holiness and purity, he’s telling them it’s okay to fit in.
    I’ve been blessed with lots of unbelieving friends. I don’t have to drink with them and smoke with them and cuss with them to be liked. I have real conversations about relationships, sports, politics, and religion. They seem to value my opinion and I’m grateful that God has given me influence in their lives.
    Finally, I would say that as a communicator, I do search for the right words. When I hear filthy language it sounds like ignorance to me. As if someone forgot how to express himself with the English language. The degradation of the language with “like” and “you know” is just as bad as “f this” and “f that”. People are losing their ability to express themselves and I’m not going to feed that decline in my attempt to communicate the gospel.
    I could go on and on about this topic but here’s something I wrote a long time ago about this issue. Hope it helps:

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  • Mike Scott
    July 5, 2009

    I personally don’t get EYJr.’s following. Beside that it is important to remember what is coming from the heart when words come out. This to me smells like another marketing scheme from his camp. He didn’t think this was a problem (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Us-FiTJgL2k) or toeing the line a little with words on this promo.

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  • Jeff Goins
    July 9, 2009

    fascinating (and at time humorous) discussion. i think that we’re right to be wary of the next hip, relevant thing, and similarly, we ought to be wary of being reactionary to the next hip, relevant thing. great perspective on this, kevin.

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  • Rob
    July 10, 2009

    Your take on Ed’s blog, which is his opinion and not a sermon, is what is wrong with religion these days. While I usually agree with and love your site, this is just another example of church division. Why can’t we all be a church of unity and not separate churches trying to make a name for ourselves. As a long standing member of Fellowship, I know that Ed and his staff are focused on bringing the lost into God’s Kingdom and not making Fellowship famous. Why can’t we all focus on that and use innovative ways of doing so (7 days of sex, modern language with discretion, etc.)? Let’s focus on reaching the lost and not playing these juvenile “i’m right, no, i’m right” games. I love you guys and continue the great site.

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  • sheila b
    July 12, 2009

    Just some comments on culture. Erwin McManus has some interesting ideas on how the church shouldn’t be following culture but instead creating culture. Our problem is that the culture that we set is not attractive and turns people off. Unfortunately we seem to have difficulty being Jesus without becoming self righteous. If we look at Jesus, we will see that it’s all about loving people. And that includes how we talk. Whether saying certain words qualifies as sinfulness is a tough area to evaluate. But I believe it is less about the word and more about the intention (heart). Sometimes only the speaker and God know.

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  • Charles
    August 9, 2009

    I see both sides of this argument. I know good dudes that use language that some think they shouldnt use and I know bad dudes who use only the finest words in the dictionary I dont really care about that.
    I just think this article was unhelpful. It goes back to the your judgmental argument….thats so old.
    But thats my opinion which at the end of the day couldnt buy you a cheesburger from mc d’s.

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  • irv
    September 28, 2009

    the truth is, language is and always will be cultural. there is no such thing as cussing in the bible. whe we are told not to “swear” it literally means taking an unwarranted oath. when we are told not to “curse”, it literally is pronouncing a curse on someone. when paul uses the idea of “filthy communication”, it is referring to sexual descriptions, so the F word would be off limits except in the bedroom of a hubby and wife. when paul talks of unwholesome, it literally means things that tear down…..there is reason that people laugh at christians at these moments. we seem ignorant (except when using all lower case) and destructive. come on people? really?

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  • AML
    February 9, 2010

    Lately I have heard the words sucks, screwed, and crap in the sermons at my church and I told my pastor that I find it offensive and distracting. I asked him to consider removing them from the preaching. I am not very conservative in my language. In casual conversation I use those words at times and I hear others using them and I don’t really think much about it. I would prefer not to use those words because I think there are better ways to express a point. But I can’t really say I have made cleaning up my language a priority. So maybe it is very hypocritical of me to ask that the people preaching clean up their language. If so I want God to convict me. But I guess the way I look at it is you don’t preach a sermon in your boxer shorts and undershirt. But it is perfectly appropriate attire for Saturday morning at home with your wife. For me personally I find the words sucks and screwed and crap offensive in a sermon. Sucks and screwed both have sexual connotations but when they are used in a sermon the point that is being made has nothing to do with sex. So to me there is no point in it. It detracts from the sermon and causes my mind to shift to something else. As for crap I just think there are better words that could be used to illustrate a point in a sermon. Again thinking about crap kind of detracts from whatever point the preacher is trying to make. That’s my two cents and I certainly wouldn’t leave my church over it. But I did make my preference known. I do think we have to be careful not to judge the person who is using the language or make an assumption about why they are using it – unless they tell us why.

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  • Ed Young Sucks
    May 13, 2010

    Ed Young accusing someone of chasing cool? Take one trip to ones of his “sermons” and you’ll see a middle aged man with bed head, designer ripped jeans, and a striped shirt begging his congregation to bring in more of their friends so they can contribute more money to projects like a water park. He looks like the stereotypical Dallas 30K Millionaire.
    His entire church is a cash cow. Frankly the guy is a genius.

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  • Nathan
    March 16, 2011

    I’m a Christian. I cuss. And not just dang or heck either. Maybe we’re all heathens, but my Christian friends do it too.

    When Comedy Central is permitted to let the f-bomb fly after 11, I think the whole culture-is-accepting-swearing argument needs extrapolated a little further than crap and sucks.

    While I’m ever-mindful of who I’m speaking with and not letting something so stupid provoke an offense with others, I’d call bull sh*t out in a heartbeat and the thought of being cool for saying it would not enter my brain.

    Let’s face it, if you were born after 1985 crap and sucks really don’t achieve the degree of emphasis they once did.

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  • steve
    November 21, 2011

    Romans 14
    Phlippians 2:15
    Matthew 5:13

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  • Rose Coward
    December 10, 2011

    Romans 12:17 admonishes us to, “give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

    The key word here is “all” it doesn’t hurt a pastor to consider the sensibilities of “all”, so that as much as it depends on him he will not unnecessarily offend anyone. It’s a high standard, but as the one who is calling his flock to a higher standard it’s appropriate.

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  • Pete Kramer
    January 12, 2012

    The cussing is a side issue for me…I let the higher up pastors deal with that – I wouldn’t be allowed to do that when I preach thought. But, as a media pastor and avid ping-pong player…I’m bothered more by all the qusi-sexual-ping-pong-grunting.

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  • Mr Clearview
    February 23, 2012

    Reading God’s Word helps put things in perspective. Obeying it is something we might want to consider too. EPHESIANS 4:49 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

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  • Nashville
    March 25, 2012

    I’m almost 50 years old. Don’t consider myself an old codger coming from the 70’s as a teenager if you know what I mean.
    all I know is, I have my walk and my walk is the only thing I can control. I personally don’t use those works like crap, suck and so on. However, I like my walk without those types of words for myself and my relationship with christ. Also, I’m not offended if I hear someone using them either.
    There’s much worse in the world system that can get me riled up a lot more than a few words.
    Simple actions of man kind can really get me going.
    Here’s a tip for being a better “Human Being” of if you;d like to call yourself a christian.
    Learn how to be accountable, say your sorry and say thank you for staters.
    Tray that for a few days and see how people react to you.

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  • Maribeth
    January 19, 2014

    I found this page because a newly – ordained pastor acquaintance just commented to my Facebook page that folks who had a problem with a guy using the F-word on TV should
    [quote] Some people need to *pull the corncob out of their butts* and relax and learn to laugh off trivial things like this.[end quote]
    I’m okay with laugh off trivial, but is she demeaning ME –in a quite vulgar way– because quite frankly, I choose NOT to be around folks spouting potty-mouth? I really don’t like vulgarity posted to my facebook, and particularly from one selling themselves as a spiritual leader. Original post requested a prayer for the guy… the would-be preacher missed a valid opportunity trying to out-do the poster. I’m thinking of mailing her a corn-cob and let her wonder where its been …. now THAT would be funny

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