I suppose that this article will perhaps be encouraging to some (church members) and painful to others (preachers). It will address a problem that has been around a long time – and this article won’t cure it. It is usually discussed in the car on the way home from church. It is the subject of long-winded preaching – emphasis on the LONG-WINDED, not the PREACHING. We love preaching – when it is done effectively.
Dr. Raymond Barber used to tell us often in Bible college, “If you can’t strike oil in thirty minutes, stop BORING.” He would always emphasize the word “boring” in his own distinctive way. Dr. Bob Smith would also remind us of this homespun proverb: “The mind cannot absorb more than the seat can endure.” Sometimes, you can say more by saying less.
I remember vividly taking my family to a Bible conference. One of my daughters was, I believe, around 5 years old. The first part of the service seemed to be an endless list of songs, specials, announcements, and choir numbers. Then, the first preacher preached. That went another hour. Followed by more music, and then the host pastor announced, “And now we are privileged to have Dr. So-and-so to preach for us.” I looked over and saw my little girl begin to cry. She had behaved herself extremely well – but when she heard that ANOTHER preacher was about to preach, she was inconsolable. Looking back, it is quite funny – but it did teach me a lesson.
Don’t get me wrong. I love preaching. My family has grown up in church and they love preaching. And I know that special meetings are just that – special. But in the regular church services, some preachers would be far more effective if they would follow Dr. Barber’s advice.
As pastors, we hold somewhat of a captive audience. Of course, no one has to come. But we have folks that want to be faithful to the Lord. They don’t want to miss church. And they love their preacher. They won’t get up and walk out, and they won’t tell you that you’re boring. You can gripe at them for not paying attention or counting the ceiling tiles and they won’t say anything because they know they should be trying to listen. However, the preacher ought to give some consideration to the people. There’s nothing in the Bible that says a midweek service has to go 2 1/2 hours when folks have been at work or school all day and have to get up at 5 the next morning.
Preaching for an hour is not a testament of the preacher’s endurance – it is a testament to the endurance of the saints. Perhaps those who endure to the end will be saved – with a final, “in conclusion!” Young preachers especially seem to love to boast if they can pass the sixty minute mark in their preaching (I can’t say I didn’t suffer from this early in my own ministry). In my opinion, it is a small percentage of preachers that can hold a congregation’s attention for an hour. This percentage lessens in one’s own church, with the people that hear us every week. It is human nature even when the sermons are good, interesting, and delivered well.
A little boy watched as the pastor took off his watch and set it on the pulpit in front of him. “What does that mean?” he asked his mother. “Absolutely nothing,” she answered.
Certainly, if God moves in a service, you shouldn’t shut the service down at noon. However, I don’t believe God should get the blame for what happens in a lot of services.
Why are some preachers unnecessarily long-winded?
- They spend too much time gabbing at the beginning of the message. A preacher may spend 25 minutes gabbing at the beginning of his time, and then at the end of the sermon he will say, “Well, I’ll have to hurry, I’m out of time.” I think it would be better to cut out the gab, instead of cutting out the sermon.
- They are not adequately prepared. Know what you are going to say and say it. Think it through. Plan your thoughts. Use an outline. Have an introduction, points, and a conclusion. Get to your point. Make it clear. When you’re done, STOP.
- Repeating themselves.
- They chase rabbits all over the field and never catch any.
- Repeating themselves.
- The introduction is a sermon, not an introduction. Some sermons should be converted into a series. It is somewhat deflating at times when a preacher goes 45 minutes and then says, “That was my introduction. Now, let me give you 12 points on…”
- Repeating themselves. Now, I don’t mean repeating for emphasis – but repeating because you’re trying to fill up the time and you’re out of things to say.
I have listened to great preachers that I could listen to for hours. I have also listened to men who would have been far more effective if they said more by saying less.
Well, this blog post may be too long-winded, so, in conclusion, remember the words of Dr. Barber, “If you can’t strike oil in thirty minutes, quit boring.”
And, by the way, “The mind cannot absorb more than the seat can endure.”
Oh, one more thing. This is just a blog post, so don’t get all offended. It’s not personal. Okay, thanks for reading. God bless. You’re dismissed.