Preachers, learn with me from the following story. It was related to me by a mature Christian man with whom I chatted on a recent flight. He was explaining why he hadn’t settled into a well known preacher’s church despite living in the area for several years. He summarized the problem by quoting his wife’s assessment of a sermon after a particularly long service:
“For the first 20 minutes, I was sure I’d never heard such sound preaching. For the next 20 minutes, I thought he should probably wrap it up. For the final 20 minutes, I started to hate the man.”
Hilarious. But also instructive, especially for a guy like me whose sermons regularly go 50-plus minutes. Be careful about assuming that your longwindedness is a virtue. I’m not arguing for sermonettes, mind you, but 45 minutes should be more than enough time to explain a passage thoroughly and make appropriate applications. Occasionally you may need more time, but I’d not make it a habit.
Preaching an hour is easy. In my experience, it takes more work to preach a meaty and efficient message, not less. But if we’re convinced that what we’re saying is eternally important, we should make sure we’re not saying it in such a way that the last third of it is merely endured. After all, we want our hearers to be thinking of the text, not praying for our demise.