I thought I would post, over the next week or so, a few thoughts on preaching. I have been preaching regularly for the past 14 years. Only in my recent assignment have I not preached (3 months since my last sermon). Before that I took part in speech contests and speaking opportunities. There has been very little that I like doing more than speaking in public. So it has become my passion to do it well.
Actually, communication has become my passion. I get excited at the opportunity to speak in public or at the possibilities a blank sheet of paper offers. Like Bono says, "I like the sound of my own voice/I didn't give anyone else a choice."
I have also read a number of blogs by obviously young pastors/preachers, and have to shake my head at some of the things they write in regards to preaching. I am by no means the master preacher. In fact, I stray too far from much of the advise I could give. But someone has to say that 40+ minute sermons are worthless.
Who cares that a person SHOULD sit and listen! Sermons must be interesting, apply to the person's life, and not waste their time with repitition. If you want people to listen and live out what is said, they first have to listen. Gone are the days when people would listen for two hours to a sermon.
Here is a thought that changed the way I preached:
"If you can't say it in 20 minutes, you can't say it in 40."
Usually a message should last no more than 30 minutes, and if it does, the speaker should be very aware of his/her audience. If a sermon last more than 30 minutes, whether the speaker realizes it or not, there is a great amount of repitition. When a preacher preaches longer than 30 minutes the audience gets bored; usually.
This is not a set-in-concrete rule, but for most of us it is good advice. Re-read your manuscript for usless repitition. That's right, I said manuscript. This doesn't mean you need to preach from a manuscript, but I have become, with a lot of fighting, a firm believer in a manuscript. Why? Because the words and your audience deserve it. (I will go into this more in a later post.)
The point is you would rather have your audience say, "I wish you would have said a little more about..." than have them say, "You should have stopped about (insert number) minutes ago!" It is like eating a satisfying meal without overstuffing yourself to the point of sickness or to the point where you could touch that particular food for a month. Don't worry, most people will never say that you speak too long or that you are boring. In fact, they are very polite when they compliment you, but they still long for the day when you will "develop" into a good preacher.
Don't let that last sentece make you paranoid...just work at becoming a better preacher.