Preaching Myths #5 – Short Talk Required

myth2People still like to wheel this one out:

“The current generation cannot concentrate as long as in the past, so reaching this generation requires shorter talks.”

Uh, no.  There is no evidence to support this.  People always like to cite the rapid-fire nature of contemporary TV, or they buy into the increasingly high-paced and frantic presentation at some youth events.  But what about other evidence?  Films are longer than ever – gone, it seems, are the days of 80 minute action films.  And of course, preachers popular with the younger generation are all only giving 12 minute mini-talks, right? I listen to a lot of 40 minute messages, and then there’s the folks attracting the younger generation with their 60 minute messages!

The evidence is not all stacked up in favour of bite-size preaching.

1. People could never concentrate for 30, 40 or 60 minutes years ago.  People have always been gripped and regripped by good preachers every few minutes.  People have always been bored to tears by dull and unengaging preachers.  10 minutes is far too long to tolerate some preachers, others can hold attention for an hour. 

2. Gripping content and effective delivery, combined with engaging persona and prayer-prepared people will add up to concentration.  Notice that it isn’t delivery alone.  Great content poorly delivered will always be an open invitation to mental drift.  But poor content delivered well will still lose you.

3. Concentration is not optional.  As a preacher you either keep people with you or go learn how to do it.  Preaching to drifted minds and distracted hearts is not acceptable.  Get their attention and keep it.  If they aren’t listening, and you are ok with that, what are you doing?  Please don’t preach just to fulfill some sense of obligation, or worse, for the money . . . preach to connect and communicate!

Whether you preach for 15 or 60 minutes next time, make sure it is appropriate to the occasion and the listeners, and then do everything you can to avoid the charge of going on too long – that is, make it so good that folks leave pondering the punch of the message, not the pain of its protraction.

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