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5 Dangerous Assumptions in Preaching

Assumption #2: “People don’t care how long I speak.”

This may have been true years ago, but no longer. Here’s how to verify that: Sit among people listening to a speaker they enjoy and even admire. If he takes too long to say what he needs to say, look around you. You’ll notice people will start looking at their watches.

Two factors have been the cause. One is people are busy—yes, too busy, but nonetheless busy. Even if it’s a Sunday, there are other things they have to do. It may be something as simple and admirable as spending some quality time with their family after a Sunday afternoon nap.

A second cause is a physical truth. It’s been said by different speakers in different ways, but “the mind cannot enjoy what the seat cannot endure.” It’s only a matter of time before a person gets tired of sitting.

This is why I’m such a proponent of 30-minute messages. People feel restless when you go beyond 30 minutes, and hence what they retain decreases dramatically.

Ask yourself three questions to correct this misconception. First, “Who do you enjoy the most: a speaker who stops before he had to or one who goes longer than you wish?” Practice being the person you enjoy hearing.

Secondly ask, “What would help you be a better communicator: taking as long as you want or taking everything you want to say and figuring out how to say it in 30 minutes?” The latter forces you to think carefully through what you have to say and how to say it.

A third question is, “Which encourages people to come back: a speaker who stops before you expected him to, or a speaker who went longer than you wanted him to?” This is particularly important when there are non-Christians in the audience. Most don’t come to Christ the first time they hear the Gospel. They need to hear it—and hear it again. So you want them to come back.

For the sake of the audience and the development of your preaching skills, don’t surrender to the assumption, “People don’t care how long I speak.”

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larrymoyer@churchleaders.com'
Dr. R. Larry Moyer is a veteran evangelist and a frequent speaker in evangelistic outreaches, training seminars, churches and universities around the world. Born with an inherited speech defect, Larry vowed to God as a teenager that if He would allow him to gain control of his speech he would always use his voice to declare the gospel. In 1973, Larry founded EvanTell, where he now serves as President and CEO. He has written several books on evangelism and frequently contributes articles to ministry publications.