Among preachers, the issue of sermon length is an evergreen topic of debate.
While many preachers try to keep their sermons to about a half hour, others contend that they simply cannot say everything that needs to be said about a Bible passage in less than 45 minutes to an hour.
Others still, though smaller in number, are actually striving to make their sermons shorter and shorter. Having been both a preacher and a church attendee who has listened to countless sermons, I’m with this smaller number of people.
What’s interesting about it is that when I was preaching every week, I could have sworn that my sermons absolutely needed to be longer, so that I could convey all the insights that I had gleaned from studying. Now that I spend more of my time listening to other people’s sermons, I’ve come to realize that this just isn’t the case.
Here are at least three reasons why your sermons should be shorter.
1. Long Sermons Aren’t Necessarily Deep Sermons.
Many preachers consider it a badge of honor that they can take a passage of only a few verses and stretch it out into a sermon that fills an entire hour. In some ways, it is a performative means by which they prove that they love the Bible more than other preachers.
After all, if you can speak about just a few verses for hours on end, then not only your devotion to the words of Scripture but your thorough study of them must be incalculable.
To be sure, most preachers who deliver long sermons have spent many hours in study, and they do genuinely love the Bible. But the quality of a sermon is not measured by its length. It is measured by how effectively it conveys what the biblical author intended to say in a given passage.
Oftentimes, when a preacher drones on too long, he says more than needs to be said about what the biblical author was seeking to convey, thereby obscuring the central truth of the passage.
Certainly, the content of the Scripture passage needs to be well-explained, developed, illustrated, applied, and reiterated. This takes time. But if a sermon gets beyond a certain length, what is certain is that at least some of what the preacher said was tangential and could have been edited out.
Even still, many of those listening to a long, unwieldy sermon often conclude that the message was “deep,” but that is actually mostly because they didn’t walk away with a clear picture of the text. They didn’t understand it, so it must have been deep. But it wasn’t deep. It was just unclear.
2. If You Give People Too Much Information, They’ll Apply None of It to Their Lives.
This point is related to the last one, but it’s important to note that the function of a sermon is different from that of a Bible commentary.