Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Stop talking

This term my preaching classes are learning to preach from 1 Corinthians. It's an extraordinarily vital letter for the church then and now. As I rev up attention on this text I was struck by something I read today from an older commentator (H.L.Goudge) on 1 Cor 14. , which is all about talking in church.

Not even conscious inspiration gives a person the right to monopolize attention. God's message can be spoken briefly. It is vanity that leads speakers to make excessive demands upon the time and the attention of other people, not respect for the divine message that they have to deliver.

That seems rather harsh. It may not be vanity that is the root cause but the expectations of a congregation that evaluate sermons by length. I remember one preacher saying that he had to preach for 45 minutes or his people criticized him. However, I recall another preacher who went to a church used to sermons lasting 25 minutes and shared with a fellow pastor that his ambition was to increase sermon length to a proper time of at least 40 minutes.

We do seem to live at a time when many evangelical preachers do seem to assume that longer is better and I wonder if this challenge about vanity has some validity. What do you think about the ways that we preachers use time ?


Anonymous said...


I may be wrong but I think that the excessive lengths often given to sermons can be attributed to several factors: 1) The false assumption in our culture that "more is better." We super size everything including the size of our sermons. An interesting analogy....super sizing normally makes us unhealthier and not better! 2)Sloppiness in our communication, a practice that has become all too apparent both in and out of the pulpit. I hear so many preachers, who, if only they would diminish the number of "folksy" transitions between sentences and phrases, could easily shave off 10 minutes. Statements like, "And now I'm going to explain..." or, "I want to tell you a story...." Please, just do it! 3) A lack of self discipline in the pulpit and in the study. 4) Misplaced priorities..pastors seem to be spending so much time these days on other things (some of which are even sometimes good!) that they don't invest the time focusing on the one thing that matters the most....preaching. It takes hard work to say something well in a brief fashion. But then, what do I know? After all, this response has been somewhat verbose. On another note, we are bombarding heaven with prayer for you and your lovely bride. "A Fan who has shared the disease with you and loves you deeply."

Snowbrush said...

I just put up a post, hit the next button, and came to you. I can but laugh.

Jackie Gibson said...

When my pastor joined our church a year ago, he was frequently glancing down at his watch while preaching. When approached about this by the deacons, he said that someone once told him that you should be able to preach a Sunday morning message in half an hour. Their response was that you shouldn't worry about the time, just focus on presenting the message that God has placed on your heart... Now he preaches for an hour.