Jump Start # 3022
Psalms 119:97 “How I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.”
A recent seminary grad, heavily influenced by TED talks has proposed preachers deliver 18 minute sermons. This is based upon the average length of most TED broadcasts. Eighteen minute sermons—many in the audience may like that.
The atmosphere and setting that the 18 minute sermon is proposed is in the denominational and mega churches. The entire service would be short. Most do not offer weekly Lord’s Supper. Most are entertained by a rock praise band. And, in a time when fewer and fewer are reading the Bible, are shorter sermons a good idea?
Here are a few of my thoughts:
First, movies last more than an hour. In fact, the average length is just under two hours. Imagine an 18 minute basketball game? Or the Super Bowl lasting only 18 minutes? I’ve watched my little granddaugthers play basketball games. Even the little ones play more than 18 minutes. Imagine being told you had to each your dinner in 18 minutes and then your table would be given to someone else? It is interesting, that what we are fond of and are passionate about, the length of time doesn’t matter. Ever get lost in a book and find out your have been reading more than two straight hours?
And, why 18 minutes? Why not 15 minutes? Why not 10? Why not just one amazing bullet point? What works in the business world doesn’t always transfer over to a spiritual setting.
Second, the sermon on the mount is short. It doesn’t take long for one to read it. However, it is layered and layered with so many subjects such as: attitude, worry, righteousness, prayer, forgiveness. These themes would be repeated over and over throughout the N.T. Peter and Paul’s sermons in Acts, while not long on paper, may have been much longer than 18 minutes. The premise of all of this is that shorter is better than longer. Less is better than more. And, with that, why not just have one worship service a month? Maybe, just Easter and Christmas? Maybe just one service a lifetime? Isn’t this already where so many are? Before long, Christ has no impact and fellowship is meaningless.
Third, an 18 minute sermon can’t lower the nets very deeply into God’s word. Without Bible classes, which the vast majority of the religious community is at, what results is shallow thinking and empty lives. Like those hollow chocolate bunny rabbits we give the kids at Easter, that’s what we become. And, when storms roll in, as they always do, our faith will collapse. Substance, depth, and knowledge takes more than a few cute sayings to remember throughout the week. We need to know Romans. We need to understand Revelation. We need to see the Messiah in the prophets. But there is something behind 18 minute sermonettes. It keeps the audience in the dark. It offers a lollipop to make them feel good without having to do any real changes. If the people studied deeply and knew the Bible, they would toss out most of those fake preachers who are fooling the audiences. The organizational structure, the method of worship, the pattern for using money is ignored Biblically in most of these churches. And, the people never know because they never study those things.
Fourth, eighteen minute sermons is a tactic to keep the crowds coming. Big crowds with full parking lots means more to some today than faith, truth and Biblical integrity. There was more than one time when crowds walked away from Jesus. He didn’t chase after them. He didn’t promise to be nicer in His message. He didn’t say let me shorten my sermons. The hearts of the people were empty and they would have nothing to do with Jesus, so the Lord let them go. It is amazing to me that a seminary grad is proposing this. Just how many sermons has he preached. How hard has he worked at fulfilling the ministry as Paul told Timothy. What all has he endured as the young Timothy was told to do. Arm chair quarterbacks, backseat drivers and Monday morning coaches all seem to know the answers to the world’s problems. But I’d rather listen to someone who has spent decades in the trenches. I want someone who has the scars of warfare telling me what the best method is.
Now, can a person preach too long? Yep. Can sermons be boring? Yes. It is a challenge to connect the word of God to a highly visual audience these days. The preacher must remember that “the mind can only endure what the seat can.” I saw a sign once, hung underneath a clock in a church auditorium that said, “Remember Lot’s wife.” I guess people were turning around looking at the clock and hoping the preacher would finish. I suggested taking that sign down or I would hang up my sign. When asked what my sign said, I replied, “Even the Lord concluded.”
It wasn’t all that long ago that Gospel meetings lasted days and days, even into weeks. It wasn’t all that long ago that sermons averaged around an hour. We’ve adjusted. We’ve adapted. We’ve found more than one way to connect and teach.
But, 18 minutes? I’m not seeing that. It takes some longer than that to get to the church building. Why bother if there is nothing much to come for. My suggestion to all us preachers is simply, “Preach the word.” Give it your all and work hard at it.
And, for Mr. Seminary Grad, my advice is to tune out all those TED lectures, open your Bible and preach. Leave the business world alone and get saturated in the Kingdom of God.