So… how long should a sermon be? Hershael York, preaching professor at Southern Seminary and Senior Pastor at Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY, answers this.
When I first came to my current church, it became apparent that my current mode of preaching would take us past the conditioned time of 11:30 a.m. One congregant told me afterwards, “Our people have been trained to be out at 11:30. You’re going to have to train us otherwise.” I’m thankful that in four-plus years here that only a handful of people have mentioned how long I’ve preached (which is usually 35-40 minutes).
York answers definitely the age old question of how long a preacher should preach. The answer? “You can preach as long as you hold their attention.” He pulls out four ways to hold a listener’s attention:
- Fill your sermon with biblical substance.
- Arrest their attention.
- Weave personal application into biblical explanation.
- Discern an awareness of how well the audience is listening–and adapt.
So, if you’re a pastor, pray well that God would help you develop these traits. As an old preacher once said, “Pastors are not called to preach the Bible, they are called to preach the Bible to people!” So often, preachers like preaching for the sake of preaching.
If you’re a listener in your congregation, pray for your pastor in developing these. Preaching is more than just speaking words–it involves the preacher’s entire being