Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Wayland on Sermon Length

Francis Wayland's views on sermon length:

A word may be said respecting the length of sermons. Cecil remarks that a written sermon should not exceed thirty or thirty-five, and an unwritten sermon forty-five minutes. This is probably a judicious direction. As sermons are of infrequent occurrence, and as they had better be confined to a single topic, or to a phase of a topic, the length of time which may occupy may profitably be within these limits. It is of small benefit to an audience to be wearied with the length of a sermon. A preacher should always bear this in mind, and by no means continue his discourse after his hearers have lost the power of attention. Sinners are rarely converted or saints edified, when they are half asleep.
Source: Notes on Principles and Practices of Baptist Churches (1857): pp. 326-27.

1 comment:

Casey said...

Francis Wayland, in the infinite mercy of God, was permitted to minister during a more "simple" time. A time when all believers, regardless of denomination (for the most part) and with the support of the civil magistrate (for the most part), set apart the Sabbath as the Scriptures teach and as the London Baptist Confession ably defends. During the heat of a pre-20th century air conditioned summer, a short sermon may have been practical. Additionally, a short sermon would have been the launching point for one or more discussions at the family meal or during afternoon devotional time. Now, we sit in air conditioned comfort (for the most part), and a short sermon is required because we are a people without disciplined minds and can only hand bite-sized, infomercials. Not only that, but we need a short sermon so that we can be out the door and on our way to the local eatery, followed by a mad dash to our home to watch the latest national sporting event (or to take our children to their own games) or to spend the better part of the afternoon watching mindless entertainment on television in order to pass the day. May God turn our hearts toward Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath, and may we, His people, again call the Sabbath a delight (Isaiah 58:13)!