Friday, April 19, 2024

Long-Winded Preaching

by James Rasbeary

I suppose that this article will perhaps be encouraging to some (church members) and painful to others (preachers). It will address a problem that has been around a long time – and this article won’t cure it. It is usually discussed in the car on the way home from church. It is the subject of long-winded preaching – emphasis on the LONG-WINDED, not the PREACHING. We love preaching – when it is done effectively.

Dr. Raymond Barber used to tell us often in Bible college, “If you can’t strike oil in thirty minutes, stop BORING.” He would always emphasize the word “boring” in his own distinctive way. Dr. Bob Smith would also remind us of this homespun proverb: “The mind cannot absorb more than the seat can endure.” Sometimes, you can say more by saying less.

I remember vividly taking my family to a Bible conference. One of my daughters was, I believe, around 5 years old. The first part of the service seemed to be an endless list of songs, specials, announcements, and choir numbers. Then, the first preacher preached. That went another hour. Followed by more music, and then the host pastor announced, “And now we are privileged to have Dr. So-and-so to preach for us.” I looked over and saw my little girl begin to cry. She had behaved herself extremely well – but when she heard that ANOTHER preacher was about to preach, she was inconsolable. Looking back, it is quite funny – but it did teach me a lesson.

Don’t get me wrong. I love preaching. My family has grown up in church and they love preaching. And I know that special meetings are just that – special. But in the regular church services, some preachers would be far more effective if they would follow Dr. Barber’s advice.

As pastors, we hold somewhat of a captive audience. Of course, no one has to come. But we have folks that want to be faithful to the Lord. They don’t want to miss church. And they love their preacher. They won’t get up and walk out, and they won’t tell you that you’re boring. You can gripe at them for not paying attention or counting the ceiling tiles and they won’t say anything because they know they should be trying to listen. However, the preacher ought to give some consideration to the people. There’s nothing in the Bible that says a midweek service has to go 2 1/2 hours when folks have been at work or school all day and have to get up at 5 the next morning.
how_long_should_you_preach_832502403Preaching for an hour is not a testament of the preacher’s endurance – it is a testament to the endurance of the saints. Perhaps those who endure to the end will be saved – with a final, “in conclusion!” Young preachers especially seem to love to boast if they can pass the sixty minute mark in their preaching (I can’t say I didn’t suffer from this early in my own ministry). In my opinion, it is a small percentage of preachers that can hold a congregation’s attention for an hour. This percentage lessens in one’s own church, with the people that hear us every week. It is human nature even when the sermons are good, interesting, and delivered well.

A little boy watched as the pastor took off his watch and set it on the pulpit in front of him. “What does that mean?” he asked his mother. “Absolutely nothing,” she answered.


Certainly, if God moves in a service, you shouldn’t shut the service down at noon. However, I don’t believe God should get the blame for what happens in a lot of services.

Why are some preachers unnecessarilylong-winded?

  1. They spend too much time gabbing at the beginning of the message. A preacher may spend 25 minutes gabbing at the beginning of his time, and then at the end of the sermon he will say, “Well, I’ll have to hurry, I’m out of time.” I think it would be better to cut out the gab, instead of cutting out the sermon.
  2. They are not adequately prepared. Know what you are going to say and say it. Think it through. Plan your thoughts. Use an outline. Have an introduction, points, and a conclusion. Get to your point. Make it clear. When you’re done, STOP.
  3. Repeating themselves.
  4. They chase rabbits all over the field and never catch any.
  5. Repeating themselves.
  6. The introduction is a sermon, not an introduction. Some sermons should be converted into a series. It is somewhat deflating at times when a preacher goes 45 minutes and then says, “That was my introduction. Now, let me give you 12 points on…”
  7. Repeating themselves. Now, I don’t mean repeating for emphasis – but repeating because you’re trying to fill up the time and you’re out of things to say.

I have listened to great preachers that I could listen to for hours. I have also listened to men who would have been far more effective if they said more by saying less.

Well, this blog post may be too long-winded, so, in conclusion, remember the words of Dr. Barber, “If you can’t strike oil in thirty minutes, quit boring.”

And, by the way, “The mind cannot absorb more than the seat can endure.”

Oh, one more thing. This is just a blog post, so don’t get all offended. It’s not personal. Okay, thanks for reading. God bless. You’re dismissed.

by James Rasbeary

Original article can be found at

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  1. You can tell if the Holy Spirit is behind the preaching. In this case keep preaching. If you don’t like the preacher going over your time limit maybe you need to find a liberal church. Jesus did not check the time when he died on the cross. Makes me think, “if you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.”

    • Hopefully, No one is in church to appear as “the big dog”. (However, truth is truth, HA!). There is a reason why churches have lower attendance than ever before. I’ve been in churches and felt certain the Holy Spirit has never been there. A personal relationship with our Lord starts with sincere seeking. Just possibly, staying on the porch with individual Bible in hand and heart prepared to hear, Is a better choice. Many churches have become “Big Business” and totally lost sight of truth and seeking Him. And, pastors wanting to appear to be His personal messenger. {snicker}

  2. I heard a young preacher asked B.R.Lakin how long he could preach and B.R.Lakin said you can preach as long as you like but after 30 minutes they’re going to quit listening to you.

  3. It’s harder work preparing to speak shorter than it is to speak longer. I think it was Woodrow Wilson that said, “If I have to make a speech of five minutes I need two weeks to prepare. If I have to make a speech of 30 minutes I need two hours to prepare. If I have a speech for one hour…I am ready now.” For me, it is lack of preparation if I go too long.

  4. I really cannot believe the comments here that agree with the author of the article. Look, if you aren’t going to church to worship God, don’t go. If you have an appointment at a specific time on Sunday afternoon, don’t go to church, because you have already made something to be more important to you than God is.

    True, some people quit listening after 20 minutes, never mind 30, but I can easily say that most of those were never really listening to the preacher to begin with. I used to be one. Those who seek to be close to God, and hear His Word, are listening intently to their pastor, and participating in worship of the Lord Jesus.

    Nobody is twisting your arm to go to church. If you are a nursery worker, usher, or have any other job in the church that takes place primarily during services, you should be doing so because God called you to it and you enjoy it. If that is not the case with you, get out of it. Having nobody else to do the job is not a good reason to do it yourself if you are miserable in so doing, or if you cannot do it with a servant’s heart.

    Series sermons are cop outs. OK, so you spent weeks preparing for your two month long series on the life and parables of Jesus. Are you sure all of the members of your congregation will be alive and attending for the duration of the series? No, you can’t be. If you think preaching is about teaching a long, drawn out lesson that takes weeks to complete, I have news for you. You’re not a preacher, you’re a Sunday School teacher.

    A preacher knows what his flock needs to hear, and gives it to them with no candy coating. But every sermons should be ended with a message of salvation. I have known the altar call itself to last for more than an hour in my church and others I have visited. If you idea of church is pray, sing, announcements, sing, pray, pass the plate, hear a song, then a 20 minute talk about how good you are, and maybe another prayer, I have more news for you. You’re not attending worship, you’re attending a therapy session.

    Nothing, absolutely nothing, about church, worship, or service to God should ever be about us as individuals. We are supposed to make ourselves last, having all come before ourselves with God at the top of the list. If your approach to Sunday worship services is anything other than joyful worship of the Lord Jesus, who saved you from all your wretchedness, despite the fact you deserve nothing better than eternity in Hell, then you’re wasting your time getting dressed up, putting on a facade for everyone, and sitting in a church pew, pretending to care about anything but your own selfish desires.

    I’ll stop there. Lord knows, most of you quit reading after the second paragraph.

  5. A Pastor I know was told by a certain man that: Studies have shown that people lose interest and quit listening to a message after about 20 minutes, to which the wise Pastor replied: Funny that you can watch a ballgame and be glued to it for over 2 hours. The man looked dumbfounded and had no reply.

  6. Laurence Chaderton who worked on the translation committee of the 1611 King James Bible was invited to preach one time and after preaching for two hours when he began to end his message the congregation cried out with one consent: For God’s sake, go on, go on. He then proceeded much longer to their great delight! I had to add this as I thought it was interesting. My how things have changed.


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