By Dennis Gulledge
Did you hear about the Baptist preacher, recently, who decided to cut his religious services down to 22 minutes and issued it as a challenge to see if people would be bold enough to “receive their religion in small doses”? He wanted to do for his preaching what McDonald’s has done for food — make it fast! What this preacher proposes is nothing new, and he certainly is right up there with some of our brethren in his fascination for brevity.
The length of a sermon is purely a subjective matter. There is no right and wrong as to the time involved. The personal preferences of people get involved and every- body has his opinion about it. As far as opinions go, one is about as good as another.
It isn’t as though I haven’t given some thought to learning the art of the fifteen-minute sermon. I have given serious consideration to the ingredients of such, and here are my conclusions:
- Leave out a lot of Scripture. Keep to a minimum the quoting, reading, and preaching of the Word.
- Dispense with heartfelt appeals for lost souls.
- Don’t study.
- Eliminate applications from Bible passages that might fit our time and situations in life. It might take a few minutes.
- Quit calling them sermons and call them “nice little talks,” or better yet, “sermonettes.”
- Forget boldness in the pulpit — you might be prompted to linger.
- Never condemn sin! There is too much of that to have to deal with. For the sake of brevity you may just have to ignore it.
- Minimize any concern for the disobedient and wayward persons in your audience. You might spend too many tears privately and too many words publicly in trying to reach them. And besides, people will be too busy studying their watches to hear what is said anyway.
- Leave out any treatment of issues troubling the church.
- You might be perceived as being “negative,” and you might get bogged down in warning people.
- Just have something to say instead of something you have to say. Try to squelch any feelings of earnestness about your task. Just get the job done quickly!
This is what I would have to recommend to my preaching brethren if they are to learn the art of the fifteen-minute sermon.
However, it appears that many of them caught on years ago, when you consider some of the ingredients above.
All in all, it appears that more is left out of the sermon than is put in.