Preaching: whether you go long or go short, just GO DEEP!!

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.”

A Preacher Amber Alert – “The pastor was last seen at 10:58 Sunday. He looked lost. He wandered in, he wandered out. And now his people are getting really worried!”

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.

Related Posts:

“Mini-Sermon: Matt 22, What is the Greatest Commandment.”

“‘But the Greek REALLY says…’: Why Hebrew and Greek are not Needed in the Pulpit”

“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

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Announcement! The English version of my 1 Corinthians commentary is now available from Logos.com; it is fully integrated with the Logos system. Only $19.95. Or you can download a pdf version for free from this blog! (https://openoureyeslord.com/2012/05/21/free-commentary-on-1-corinthians-2/)

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Published in: on February 28, 2013 at 1:51 pm  Comments (3)  
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Is the NIV 2011 a Satanic, Homosexual, PC Bible? Part I

Search for comments on the new NIV by Google, and you will find bloggers talking about its “feminist agenda”, “Satan’s lies”, “end-time deception” and that “the homosexual community is excited about the new perversion of the Bible.” (They provided no statements from gay groups, expressing their glee). At its annual convention last year, the Southern Baptist Convention went so far as to condemn “this inaccurate translation of God’s inspired Scripture”, implying that it does so because as Baptists they believe that God’s Word is infallible – and by implication the NIV is not.

What’s the fuss? After all, every Bible version is updated and revised over the years; these revisions do not imply that the message of God’s Word is being altered: the NASB of today is not the original, but the 1995 revision. Nor is the “original” King James the 1611 version; it was updated continuously over the centuries. The ESV wins the prize: it was a revision of the National Council of Churches’ RSV (1971 edition); the ESV was published in 2001, revised in 2007 and revised again in 2011. The NIV itself was revised in 1984, and hardly anyone noticed. But few updates have caused a stir as the NIV 2011 has.

I’m not capable of evaluating the whole edition; nevertheless, for the last decade I have worked closely with the Greek text of 1 Corinthians, writing a Spanish-language commentary for CLIE publishers in Barcelona, Spain; my comments therein are based on the Spanish version of the NIV, called the Nueva Versión Internacional (NVI). Therefore, I do regard myself as qualified to evaluate the NIV 2011 rendering of 1 Corinthians, and I will do so with reference to NIV84, the Nueva Versión Internacional, the Nestle-Aland 27th edition of the Greek Testament [which is identical to the newer 28th edition] and other translations. Since 1 Corinthians is a long book, we will look just at chapters 1-7.

I happen to believe that calling a Bible “satanic” is a fantastically grave act, and one that must be backed up with a careful evaluation of evidence, not with broad-brush comments that it is a “politically-correct perversion”.

I’ve gone through and compared 1 Cor 1-7 word-for-word and will mark the important changes in the NIV 2011 as an improvement on the 1984 version, inferior to the 1984, or equal to the 1984. Other alterations, which are not listed, are mere changes of order or the substitute for one word for another (for example, “in” becomes “within” in 1 Cor 1:5). Part II of this essay will deal with the hot button issue of gender and the use of English pronouns in Bible translation; here in Part I we will deal with everything else.

My broad conclusion with reference to 1 Cor 1-7 is that the NIV 2011 is generally more reliable than the Spanish NVI and even more trustworthy than the NIV84. If anyone wishes to respond to my comments, please focus on these facts rather than sweeping generalizations; one can access the NIV 2011 here. (more…)

The little sermon that jumped the tracks

By Gary Shogren, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

I have at last spotted a creature that until now I’d only read about. It is the reappearance of a style of preaching which does an end-run around the rational mind and appeals to the non-rational. I’m probably the last one of my social set to spot this particular sasquatch; my excuse, as usual, is that I’m out of the USA for long periods of time.

Here’s how the sermon went: it started out as a talk about some topic, for about 20 minutes. Then the preacher showed a 10-minute video clip. The movie hit the audience on a gut level. It was not about dead puppies, but let’s say it had all the emotional punch of a film about running over cute furry animals. Also, the video had no obvious connection with what had gone before. (more…)