Passive form. Most preachers still employ a passive, spectator approach to the sermon time. They do all the talking. And because the people sit without the opportunity to interact or process what they’re hearing, they fail to engage in a meaningful way. Some may be entertained, but rarely moved.
Human wiring. People consume, learn and apply communication in different ways. Some process predominately through their eyes. Others internalize primarily through action. And some process chiefly through their ears. The latter are the auditory learners. They do better with sermons. The problem is, they’re in the minority. (I suspect many, if not most, preachers are auditory learners who often assume, dangerously, everyone learns as they do.)
The Ideal Length
First, the length of the sermon is not the point. The point is ... the point. However long or short it takes to make a lasting point.
Using a variety of supporting ideas, Scriptures, stories, visuals, experiences and interaction, an effective message might take 20 or 30 minutes. Or it may take five minutes.
No two messages are identical. So, why do preachers attempt to manufacture lectures that fill the identical time allotment, week after week? Why not allow other elements of a worship service to expand and shrink? I think some preachers believe those of us in the pews will feel cheated if the sermon runs 10 minutes short. Trust me on this, if we sense God moving us within a five-minute message, we won’t complain.
Our society and our congregations may be suffering from some spiritual starvation. But it’s not because our preachers are not long winded enough.
The denominational executive concluded his remarks about sermons with a suggestion that any preacher who delivers even an occasional short sermon should be removed from ministry.
Be careful, sir. One who is guilty of your condemnations was, in fact, quite effective with the short-form message. That was 2,000 years ago. People are still talking about his brief, punchy stories and lessons.
He could have turned every opportunity into a 30-minute lecture. He certainly had plenty he could have shared. But he knew his audience. And his goal.
He didn’t buy the “more is better” myth:
I have many more things to say to you, but they are too much for you now. — John 16:12
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