Here is a link to the article under question, “Still Saving Eutychus,” by Marty Sweeney. Says the author: “In my circles it is assumed, to put it simplistically, that to be more faithful to God you must preach longer.” He goes on to question that assumption.
And despite my sermons of 40ish minutes, I more or less sympathize with the article.
I have heard 90 minute sermons which flew past; I have heard 15 minute ones which I thought would never end.
Now, I don’t mind a longer sermon, but I do object to:
- Those preachers who lack basic self-discipline and try to pass that flaw off as depth.
- Or who preach “in the spirit of the Puritans,” who, you know, gave really long messages.
- Or who preach on and on because, if they don’t, then somehow we have caved into that handy catchall bogeyman, postmodernism.
- Or because we don’t want the bigger boys to make fun of our unmanly “sermonettes preached by preacherettes!” (that other bogeyman, the ideology of gender)
But wait! Eutychus! I hear you say. Acts 20:7-12! Ah, yes. But when Eutychus (whose Greek name means “Lucky”) took a header from that window, it was during an extraordinarily long preaching session. A record-breaker. One that the author describes only because it was such an oddity, given under urgent circumstances.
But I insist that, if Paul taught (let’s say) for 12 hours that night, there is no way that he filled that slot with stories of guys he knew growing up in Tarsus; or some cute thing that Epaphroditus had said the other day: or a long list of “You Might be an Ephesian if…”; or 15 principles of how to become a better executive; or why gladiators (the ancient equivalent of football stars) have excellent insight into gospel truths; or page after page that he got from some bestseller; or some clever but unhelpful analysis of some Hebrew verb. Nor even a sermon that might have gone somewhere, but then went off the grid (“I HAVE A DREAM TODAY! Well, not really a dream, it’s more of a…what’s that thing, what do you call it, an ideal. But a realistic one that may or may not be able to be pulled off! Anyway, I have one of those,” etc, etc). Or a conclusion he makes 5 or 6 attempts at, before finally “sticking the landing.”
We should be very conscious that every minute we speak, we are asking the People of God to invest that amount of time with us.
If I am preaching to a group of – well, let’s say, 60 people, to make the math easier – then for every minute I speak, I am consuming a man-hour of the church’s energy. For every hour I speak, I am consuming 60 man-hours. And yes, I am fully aware that God’s people misuse whopping amounts of time on junk, but that gives me no excuse for burning up the clock unnecessarily.
At the very least, God’s people should get a lived-out and prayed-through encounter with the Lord in and through his Word, a right-out-of-the-gate beginning, a solid meal, realistic and specific application, and a confident conclusion.
“Preaching: whether you go long or go short, just GO DEEP!!,” by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica