Friday, August 11, 2006

How Long Should a Sermon Be?

Spurgeon's Lectures to his students were delivered to the young men studying for pastoral ministry at his church's training school.
One issue Spurgeon takes on in the chapter titled “Attention!” is how long a sermon should be.
In our day, sermons are far too short. I would say the average sermon in an evangelical church is c. 20-25 minutes. Sermon-ettes produced Christian-ettes. Add shorter sermons to fewer occasions for people to hear preaching (with the shutting down of Sunday evening and mid-week worship due to lack of interest) and many people get very little preaching.

The problem in Spurgeon’s day may well have been over-long sermons. Spurgeon argues for 40-45 minutes as an optimal time frame for a message:
An old preacher used to say to a young man who preached an hour,--“My dear friend, I do not care what you preach about, but I wish you would always preach about forty minutes.” We ought seldom to go much beyond that—forty minutes, or, say, three-quarters of an hour. If a fellow cannot say all he has to say in that time, when will he say it?…

If you should ask me how you may shorten your sermons, I should say, study them better. Spend more time in the study that you may spend less in the pulpit. We are generally longest when we have least to say. A man with a great deal of well-prepared matter will probably not exceed forty minutes; when he has less to say he will go on for fifty minutes, and when he has absolutely nothing he will need an hour to say it in. Attend to these minor things and they will help to retain attention ( p. 134).

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