28.11.08

note to self - don't babylon

BABYLON: (1) city situated on the river euphrates to which the israelites were exiled (2) what a lot of preachers do

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the above quotation comes from adrian plass' recent offering to us to make us not take ourselves too seriously, something for which i am eternally grateful.

however this one whilst admittedly raising a snigger, did make me ponder on something that i've observed for a little while now. namely that there seems to be a particular evangelical movement to preach sermons that last at least 45 minutes.

i don't know where this has come from, most of us have had to listen to long sermons and i doubt that many of us have thought, 'oh, we're on point 6 out of 10, goody another 4 to go'. now i love preaching, i take it very seriously - i guess i have quite a 'high' view of preaching to go with my 'high' view of scripture. but precisely because of my high view of preaching, i don't find that i need to be anxious if i haven't said absolutely everything about the text in front of me, or the issues which it might speak about, or to. but it's difficult not to get drawn into this as a preacher. like the more you can say means you're somehow more of a preacher - i'm sure there's some psychoanalysis to be done on that.

perhaps it's apocryphal, that thing that they say about people switching off after 20 minutes, but simply from my own experience of being in a congregation, i have found that a i glaze over somewhere beyond 25/30 minutes, partly because of seat comfort, partly because of brain overload, and partly because the probability is that the preacher has started to repeat themselves at this point. okay, it does depend on the context i suppose - sometimes you expect a longer sermon or talk, like if you go to a conference setting or something (even then it can be difficult not to find yourself dreaming of coffee and a caramel slice........), or if you are going to a teaching session on something - but this is not preaching. preaching is something other than that, where it is promised that the word will be brought to life and it will not return empty. it holds a promise of God for him to be present when his word is preached.

it's mysterion or sacrament to us.

so what do we think, that the holy spirit can't pierce someone's heart in 10 minutes? or 20? sometimes i think we need reminding that this is God's living word, he is the one who brings it to life, not us.

5 comments:

karen said...

If you can preach it in 12 minutes, I'm happy. The rest usually seems to be waffle. I find the simpler we can keep the important points, the better.

cryptogram said...

The only person I've listened to for 45 minutes and wished it could have been longer was the great George MacLeod, of Iona, who was surely one of the great preachers of the 20th century. I recall him saying on the only other occasion I heard him that there are some preachers who put the incarnation into reverse - the Word made flesh is made word again.

jody said...

hi karen, funnily enough i had a to do a preaching exam which was limited to 12 minutes - sometimes, not always, but sometimes the other stuff can just be fluff.

crypto, hmmm yes, it's a valuable insight. i remember listening to andy hickford at soul survivor, he preached for 45 minutes on esther, it was excellent - then i heard him preach the same thing at the 'soul survivor youth workers' conference and then the 'schools network' conference. which just goes to prove that even those who can do it, can't do it all the time! as a general rule, i reckon stick to shorter sermons unless you really really really think the holy spirit wants it longer....

Tim Goodbody said...

Hi Jody
When it comes to preaching I'm not high church or low church I'm short church. 10 to 15 s about right. These days since I have 2 morning services in 2 churches 2 miles apart, if the sermon at 9.30 goes on too long then the 11.00 service starts late.

PS thank you for posting on a fresh topic!

jody said...

maybe 'how long's your sermon' will become the new 'how big's your church'......