Article: Long-winded Preaching

how_long_should_you_preach_832502403I 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.

asleep3Preaching 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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Repeating themselves.
  4. They chase rabbits all over the field and never catch any.
  5. Repeating themselves.
  6. 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…”
  7. 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.

About James Rasbeary

I am the pastor of the Lighthouse Baptist Church in Wylie, Texas. Check out my blog at
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12 Responses to Article: Long-winded Preaching

  1. Bro. Aaron Trigg says:

    Fantastic read – I enjoyed this very very much!

  2. John Chastain says:

    Good read

  3. Timothy Benefield says:

    Great thoughts and well written. There is a lot of truth here. I loved the story about your daughter.
    Regarding point number one, my biggest enemy is when I start reviewing if I am in the middle of a series. There are always people there that missed the first part of the series, and I really want them to see the current sermon in light of the whole series. That is what usually gets me in trouble. 🙂 I don’t do a lot of informal gabbing.
    Regarding point number two, I love the quote by Abraham Lincoln. “”If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the ax”. I can definitely tell when the ax is not sharp and I am just swinging away trying to cut the tree down. Sharp ax equals short cutting time. There is also a great verse on this idea in Ecclesiastes 10:10. “If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.”
    Regarding points number three, five, and seven, I believe I am doing better about that. I definitely have to aware of it or sneaks back up on me.
    Regarding point number four, that is not one I usually struggle with.
    Regarding point number six, that is a battle for me about one sermon out of five.
    I usually preach 40-45 minutes. I am constantly aware of the battle in this area and would be very happy to be at 35-40 minutes.
    Thanks for the article,
    Pastor Tim Benefield
    Golden Valley Baptist Church

  4. rlosey says:

    Some thoughts:
    – Excellent! Only a pastor could say such things; if a church member said such a thing, they would be dismissed as “complaining”, “trouble-making”, and/or “unspiritual”.

    – Expanding #1, some preachers (and this may happen more frequently with guest speakers) believe that they have to entertain people, and spent this “gabbing” time telling jokes or telling stories about themselves.

    – Something you didn’t mention, but tends to irritate me with guest speakers is when they spent 20 minutes talking about what they have for sale in the back. C’mon; a simple “I have a table in the back with items you may find useful” takes 5 seconds to say – If I’m interested, I’ll stop by – I DON’T need to hear the speaker go through his entire inventory!

    – Series; I love it when a pastor teaches/preaching through a book of the Bible; however, sometimes, it seems that they have some internal measure of success; something like “I have to finish chapter 2 this week – I’ve been it in for four weeks!”. If it is going slower, or the pastor is passing along great truths that God has shown him, there is no reason he cannot stop, and pick up where he left off next time. There is no race going on, but some messages seem like the pastor is determined to gallop toward some pre-determined ending point. I’d rather the pastor take the time and do a good job instead of having to gloss over some verses or part of the chapter in order to meet some arbitrary deadline.

    – Independence is good; the pastor will, presumably, answer for his conduct in the church over which the Lord has placed him – but some pastors seem to think that if they don’t preach at least “x” minutes, their “big church success” brother pastor will give him a hard time.

    – In my 40+ years of being in church, I recall just a handful of messages that were so absolutely fascinating I was actually disappointed that it was time to go. Another handful (slightly larger, sadly), I can remember thinking “Oh no! ANOTHER point!?! I had hoped that we were stopping”.

  5. Timothy Benefield says:

    Oh . . . one more thing I thought you might enjoy, Bro. Rasbeary.
    One morning a preacher got up in the pulpit with a horrible cut on his cheek. After a long-winded sermon, one of his members asked him what happened to his cheek. The pastor said, “This morning while I was shaving I was concentrating on my sermon and I cut myself.” The member replied, “Next time, perhaps you should concentrate on your shaving and cut your sermon.” 🙂

    Pastor Tim Benefield

  6. Stephen Benefield says:

    Great article! I enjoyed it. Good reminders for us preachers.

    Here’s 3 quick jokes about the topic at hand…

    1. A long-winded preacher, upon noticing that he had been going quite long, began apologizing profusely to the crowd. He blamed it on the fact that he didn’t have a watch. A man in the front row piped up, “What does that have to do with it? There’s a calendar right there on the wall.”

    2. A preacher had been going on for quite a spell when a young man got up and walked out. He was gone for half an hour and then returned…and the preacher was still going. After the service, the following conversation took place:
    Preacher: What was so important that you had to leave the service?
    Man: I had to go get a haircut.
    Preacher: Well, couldn’t you have done that before coming to church?
    Man: I didn’t need one then.

    3. Memorial Day weekend, a little boy was fidgeting as the preacher preached a lengthy sermon. Finally, he leaned over to his mother and said, “Mommy, what are all those flags for lined up across the platform.” She replied, “Those are in memory of all the men and women who have died in the service. Now, sit still.” After thinking about that for a few minutes, he leaned over to his mom again and whispered nervously, “Did they die in the morning service or the evening service?”

  7. philipdean2013 says:

    Very well said! My Seminary puts time limits on our sermons in Homiletics class. Their point is, you need to be able to come to the points. So the time limit is – three minutes.
    The idea is, to learn to come to the point in a short time span. When you’re out of the seminary (and vainly trying to remember everything you learned!)… you’re equipped with a habit of preaching, reaching the point so everyone understands it… and being done!
    The big problem comes with the seasoning – you try so hard to explain and season every last little nuance. Hopefully, I can overcome that habit!

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