Okay, I admit my subjectivity here. And I realize some (if not many) readers will disagree with me today.
My concern in this post is the length of sermons—especially sermons that push toward an hour in length. I typically preach for 35-40 minutes, and I, at times, would like to have preached longer. Nevertheless, here's why I struggle with sermons that are much longer:
- Few preachers are strong enough pulpiteers to preach well for this long. Some are, but they're the exception. Too many young preachers think they can preach well for an hour because that's what their heroes do—but seldom is the young preacher as good as the hero.
- I fear that some preachers view the length of the sermon as a sign of theological depth and academic rigor. They think they must show their prowess via preaching longer sermons than others do—and they at times view shorter sermons as automatically watered down.
- It seems to me that preachers should work their way up to longer sermons rather than start there. That is, we earn the privilege to preach longer by first learning to preach well in shorter sermons. I put it this way for my students: "If you can't do it well in 30 minutes first, you're not likely to do it well in 60."
- Few people are accustomed to listening to someone speak for nearly an hour. Our culture is a sitcom culture that seeks instant satisfaction (that is, we listen in short segments, with commercial breaks in between to grab a snack and use the restroom)—and preachers must at least be aware of that reality. Again, those who preach longer sermons in this culture need to be gifted expositors and proclaimers of God's Word.
- Many longer sermons are longer simply because they're disorganized and rambling. It takes a lot longer to wander from and around a central truth than it does to simply expound and apply that truth. That reality, stated in a different way, is the sermon without a clear direction and outline can move in so many directions that it takes more time to cover the territory.
- Pastors need to consider nursery and children's workers serving during the worship service. I happily serve in the toddlers' department at our church, but I'm always reminded to think about these workers the next time I'm privileged to preach to our congregation. I don't mind preaching a shorter sermon in order to be sensitive to faithful (and sometimes weary) children's volunteers.
Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is team leader for theological education strategists for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
For the original article, visit chucklawless.com.
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