So, yesterday I got several comments after the service saying how nice it is to have short sermons! I guess I DID have a short sermon! There was a skit that was about five minutes long, and then I spoke for perhaps another 4 or 5 minutes (I am guessing since I didn’t record it)…
Of course people are pretty happy the other times I have short sermons as well!
REALLY TRULY, I am glad WHENEVER the congregation is happy – EVEN IF it is hard to take sometimes because the obvious implication is that my sermons are pretty awful!
THIS IS WHAT I AM THINKING ABOUT THE SUBJECT… and I would LOVE to have your feedback it:
1) Firstly, I really ENJOY preaching and sharing God’s Word. This, obviously, is a blessing and a curse for you folks!
2) FRANKLY, I KNOW that not all my sermons are very good! And there is no good excuse for it. For me it is a matter of continual repentance and the seeking of forgiveness and renewed discipline. It is a constant struggle for any pastor to preach well every Sunday, to have interesting ideas and effective ways of presenting the Gospel and the Christian life. It isn’t exactly an easy thing to do week after week, and so, unfortunately, it is an easy thing to let slide. In seminary they teach you that it should take a pastor a minimum of 8 hours to prepare a sermon. I haven’t met a pastor who takes that much time to prepare. Most of us have a hard time prioritizing our work since we are so distracted with all the other things that need to be done around the church – and usually we don’t have someone looking over our shoulder through the week like most work places.
3) People tell me that when a sermon gets too long it gets hard for them to concentrate and their minds start wandering… This is a truth which is very much scientifically documented… The modern mind is “trained” by the television to pay attention for about 12 minutes before the next commercial comes! This truth IS important for us pastor’s to understand and apply! But what confuses me is that sometimes the same people who complain most about my sermon lengths are the same ones who are thrilled to tell me all about the radio or TV preachers they listen to who regularly speak for more than 30 minutes… I try to listen to these preachers and some of them are surprisingly NOT very charismatic or exciting as speakers… I can’t figure that out…
However true the above is, I have several concerns:
4) I wonder how short is too short? Maybe it would be the best thing to just eliminate the sermon and just have a quick run through of the Liturgy each Sunday. Maybe THAT would make people really happy! Maybe we could market Peace Lutheran as the “Church Without a Sermon”! People would finally be convinced that Peace is the place for them and our attendance would skyrocket!
OK, seriously, we have to ask ourselves: What IS the PURPOSE of the sermon? – What reason is there to listen to it? More basically: What IS a sermon? Most basically a sermon IS an exposition and application of scripture to our lives… An application of the Law and Gospel to our lives that our hearts might be turned from sin and evil and be drawn to Jesus Christ and His salvation! For those who have a hard time with longer sermons I am always concerned about the underlying reasons: Is your reason a matter of practical issues, or is it because your heart is really so far from God and you don’t really WANT to pay attention to it? There is an offense of the Gospel that has to be recognized!
5) Part of my own personal struggle with sermonizing is that I am convinced that by far the vast majority of our own congregation has a terrible lack of understanding of God and His Word. In the days gone by a Christian could be a Christian without much of a bother. The truth was the truth and no one really questioned it… Contrast that with today where the only truth is that there IS NO TRUTH. I look out at the congregation and see massive doubt, despair, and a general falling away from the Truth – mostly as a result of the fact that people’s reasonable knowledge of the faith and scripture is so shallow. (So shallow they don’t even know what they are missing…) So consider my situation when I know the ONLY time the vast majority of the congregation will even consider the Word of God for their lives is during the sermon time: No wonder I get pretty anxious to take advantage of as much time as I can!
But of course, if the cumulative effect of a long sermon is detrimental in the end, certainly it would demand of me to keep the sermons SHORT!
SO, IF YOU HAVE GOTTEN TO THE END OF THIS BLOG (WHICH IS ALMOST AS LONG AS ONE OF MY SERMONS!) PLEASE RESPOND Post anonymously if you want! Whatever you say might hurt – BUT IF THE TRUTH HURTS, SO BE IT! It is the truth that in my weakness God will be glorified more and more and that HIS GRACE IN ME will be more plain for all to see!