Too Long Sermons!

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!

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4 thoughts on “Too Long Sermons!

  1. Read with interest you blog on “too long” sermons. Perhaps these helpful hints wiii be an asset.As with any speech the intro is sooo important. If it is so stumbling, inarticulate, you will have no chance of capturing the attention of your people. A poor beginning may so distracting an aleinate them that you can never fully recover them. But getting off on the right foot is vital to a speakers self confidence.What could be more encouraging than watching your listeners face as they begin to register interest, attention and pleasure? The hardest part of any presentation is the beginning. If you can get through opening stages of your sermon without blundering, the rest will go much more smoothly. A good intro. is an excellent confidence booster.
    So get their interest, give them the “Core”of the sermon, and preeview the body of the sermon.
    SO step up to the pulpit, get your papers IN ORDER no shuffling them around with apologies. Gather the papers. PAUSE. Look directly at your people. b/c you have a tendency not to make eye contact and, the people will think you are really not interested in them but only interested in the GUTS of the sermon. Draw them in towards yourself, get them involved, let them feel good about themselves, you know how to do that already.Try to relate to things that afect the people directly/ If you can relate to them thay are much more likely to be interesred in the topic and not the time.
    State the”theme” of the sermon and tell them why it is importasnt.whET THEIR CURIOSITY ABOUT THE SUBJECT OF THE SERMON
    So in conclusion al I can are these little tidbits;
    1. Keep trhe intro brief.
    2. Be creative in devising your intro.
    3. Write it ot so that you can deliver it so thoroughly that you can do it without hesitation. This will boost your confidence at the start of the sermon.
    The Conclusion…It is your last chance to drive home your “CORE” ideas. These final impressions will probably linger in your peoples minds. Thus the conclusion needs just as much craft as the intro.
    The conclusion needs to let the people know that you are ending the sermon and most importantly to REINFORCE their understanding of the “CORE” idea of your sermon.
    Summarizing :the main points is the easiest way to end a sermon. The summary will restate the CORE ideas and main points one last time. THe Holy Spirit will take care of the rest…

  2. Thanks for the “Back to basics” reminder… I know there have been long sermons which have been VERY well received, and the reason was that they were of good quality. People don’t mind the time if the sermon is of good quality.

  3. Dear Pastor,

    I feel strongly that you shouldn’t be stressing over how long or short your sermons are. I feel you truly have a gift for reaching the people and you keep right to the scripture. We are very fortunate to have you as our Pastor. Keep up the GOOD WORK!

  4. good morning! partor kris…….it has always bothered me when pastors say ‘oh , i’ll just say this quickly…’ and ‘i have kept you long enough’ ??? we are there to hear GODS WORD..and there is something more ‘im portant’ we could be doing ? i think not!and it is only once a week , my goodness like i said .i always questioned that (guess i never talked to you about it)…SO….what happens..let the ones that have more important things to do leave..and you don’t rush!…….as far as concentration…..don’t football games run(no pun intended) for hours..and hours ..and hours???????????? GOD BLESS YOU AND FAMILY!

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