Are Your Sermons Too Long?

Here’s a bit of wisdom from the Prince of Preachers on sermon length:

Brethren, weigh your sermons. Do not retail them by the yard, but deal them out by the pound. Set no store by the quantity of words which you utter, but strive to be esteemed for the quality of your matter. It is foolish to be lavish in words and niggardly in truth. -C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, p. 71

There is no intrinsic value in an overlong sermon. Nor is there anything to boast about that a congregation has become conditioned to endure them. What constitutes a long sermon is a relative term anyway, isn’t it? In any case, a long-winded preacher is just as capable of wispy words as a short-winded one. Likewise, a short sermon is just as capable of filling a room with hot air as is a long one. Twenty minutes of gospel power would do far more for a congregation than forty minutes of gospel lite. Likewise, forty minutes of Biblical exhortation would hold the attention of God’s people far more than twenty minutes of pointless patter.

Sometimes congregations expect preachers to keep it short, and those congregations need to be conditioned over time to allow longer expositions. But sometimes preachers value sermon length as an end in itself, and they may need to measure their sermons more by the pound than by the yard.

A final word from Spurgeon:

Do not overload a sermon with too much matter. All truth is not to be comprised in one discourse. Sermons are not to be bodies of divinity. There is such a thing as having too much to say, and saying it till hearers are sent home loathing rather than longing. An old minister walking with a young preacher, pointed to a cornfield, and observed, “Your last sermon had too much in it, and it was not clear enough, or sufficiently well-arranged; it was like that field of wheat, it contained much crude food, but none fit for use. You should make your sermons like a loaf of bread, fit for eating, and in convenient form.” -C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, p. 77

11 Responses to Are Your Sermons Too Long?

  1. Larry Geiger March 28, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    “You should make your sermons like a loaf of bread, fit for eating, and in convenient form.”

    Most of us sitting out there in the pews are not too bright or even particularly spiritual sometimes. We need the loaf real bad. Thanks to all those who study and prepare to bring us our weekly morsels. Forgive us for being dense and obtuse.

  2. Prayson Daniel March 28, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    Beautiful. Thank you

  3. Micah Fries March 28, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    much to meditate on Denny. Thanks for the material.

    • Denny Burk March 29, 2012 at 9:36 am #

      Thanks, Micah! Great to hear from you!

  4. Paul Horne March 29, 2012 at 8:28 am #

    Denny,

    Thanks for this. I preached a sermon back in January and thought it should have been longer, but after listening to it again recently I felt it was just right. So thank you for the reminder that length is not the goal, but content.

    Preach

  5. Joel Puello April 3, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    It is sad that we are concerned with sermon’s length and we do not mind watching a baseball game, or tennis, a hollywood movie. If the preacher is filled with the power of the Holy Ghost and the word of Christ is abundant in his life let him speak in season, out of season and be eloquent man.

    • Louis Andrus June 11, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

      I hear what you are saying, but you must also understand that we can only retain but so much, like eating natural food, the food has to have a chance to digest before you can eat more, you can only retain a certain % of what you hear. it’s much better to receive that which you can retain and digest. As for watching a baseball game, your not really digesting or retaining anything, you’re just watching a game, I sit through 2 1/2 hour sermons sometimes twice a week, how much i retain, who knows, I do know that to sit and listen for such a long period of time is trying, i love the word, but I also like to digest what I am hearing.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Are Your Sermons Too Long? | Already Not Yet - March 29, 2012

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    […] Sometimes congregations expect preachers to keep it short, and those congregations need to be conditioned over time to allow longer expositions. But sometimes preachers value sermon length as an end in itself, and they may need to measure their sermons more by the pound than by the yard. A final word from Spurgeon: There is no intrinsic value in an overlong sermon. Nor is there anything to boast about that a congregation has become conditioned to endure them. What constitutes a long sermon is a relative term anyway, isn’t it? Are Your Sermons Too Long? | Denny Burk […]

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    […] Are Your Sermons Too Long? – Do not overload a sermon with too much matter. All truth is not to be comprised in one discourse. Sermons are not to be bodies of divinity. There is such a thing as having too much to say, and saying it till hearers are sent home loathing rather than longing. An old minister walking with a young preacher, pointed to a cornfield, and observed, “Your last sermon had too much in it, and it was not clear enough, or sufficiently well-arranged; it was like that field of wheat, it contained much crude food, but none fit for use. You should make your sermons like a loaf of bread, fit for eating, and in convenient form.” -C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, p. 77 […]

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