How Long, O Preacher?

I’ve written before about sermon length debates, and may do so again.  But this post is not about sermon length.  It is about the ticking clock.  From the moment the sermon begins, how long until . . .

Tick. . .

Tick. . .

Tick. . .

1. Relevance – That is, until the listeners get the sense that this message is relevant to them.  Don’t leave application until a little section at the end, that is way too long.  Show them from the very beginning that this preacher, this message, this text, is relevant to them.

2. Grace – That is, until the listeners are clear that Christianity is not about our performance and diligent dutiful behaviour.  Don’t preach behavior and conformity and religiosity and law for most of the message and then throw in a bit of grace at the end.  It is easy to do a law before grace approach that doesn’t just short-change grace, it positively rips it off.  Undermine the religious misunderstanding, don’t reinforce it.  Too many are still convinced the Bible is all about the rules we need to strive to obey, but are sadly unaware of the radical grace that stirs inside-out life change.

3. Delight – That is, until the listeners get a sense from your demeanour or expression that knowing Christ is a good thing.  It is easy, in the seriousness of the preaching event, to fail to show the joy of the Lord.  The pulpit is not the place for crass humour or inappropriate levity, but if we don’t have reason to be joyful, then nobody does!

4. Smile – That is, make sure number 3 shows in more than your words.  Just saying you are joyful doesn’t convince anyone if there is no other hint of it!

5. Shuffling – Ok, changing category slightly, but how long until your listeners are shuffling, coughing, looking around, fidgeting, etc.?   If this happens during your message, presume the problem is your preaching, not their level of maturity and spirituality.  In fact, this may occur sooner that you’d like, because 1, 2, 3 and 4 have not come as soon as they should have.

This is a random list, but I’m sure other things could be added where the clock is really ticking!

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