“And sixty-fifthly. . .”
–Me about to wrap up a sermon
I preach long sermons. I really do. I feel bad for people.
Here’s the thing: I’m actively trying to make them shorter. I’m amazed how my sermons can consistently be 35 minutes in practice, and yet stretch to over 45 when preached in church. I feel bad.
But not really.
When it comes to sermon length, you kind of have to fit into what the church allows. If people are used to going to church for an hour, or an hour and a half, that’s what they expect to have happen. There are allowable minutes for prayer, scripture reading, singing, special music, offering, all sorts of things. The sermon gets shoved in between that stuff.
That stuff may have a place (although I think offering should go the way of the dodo bird), but the preaching of the word really is the point of a church gathering. I’m shocked how many people don’t understand this. Then again, no one comes to my church, so . . .
The best advice I ever heard about preaching was:
If you don’t have anything else to say: don’t!
Sermon length should be determined by amount of actual stuff that needs to be said. I think pastors should be saying a lot. Christians today do not know their Bibles. The self-help Gospel has overtaken our churches and people are not being helped by this trend.
There is a lot to say. Short sermons aren’t even possible for me. I believe they are blasphemous. Running out of sermon content should not be a problem. If it is, I suggest you take some time personally to develop your spiritual growth and biblical curiosity. There’s a chance you’re just copying Your Guys and not preaching the word.
Pastors also need to be able to say stuff well. The best way to teach something is to understand it! Seriously. Understanding the Bible means you first have to know what the words mean. You know how to use the Bible and can explain the meaning within Biblical context.
Second, you need to understand it by experience. If you are preaching what you are not living, you will botch the sermon. It can be the most academically rigorous sermon every preached, and if it’s not real to you, people will notice and they will not hear. You have to be growing spiritually to preach well.
Know what you’re talking about intellectually and experientially. If you don’t have this on a verse, then don’t preach on that verse. Then go about learning that verse intellectually and experientially until you do understand it. Then preach!
Preaching is a great responsibility and a great joy. If you don’t enjoy preaching the Word, please resign immediately. Preaching the Word is central to the pastor’s job. There is no other point for you being a pastor if you are not preaching the Word. Get good at it. Work on it. Listen to your sermons. Critique them. Edit them. Live them. Preach them well.
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.
–2 Timothy 4:1-2