Three Views on How Long a Sermon Should Be

What is the trend? Are church members and church leaders saying sermons should be longer or shorter? The answer is “yes.”

If my answer is confusing, I understand. But the reality is there are two major trends taking place related to sermon length. I have been following these trends through anecdotal information and social media polls for three years. There are growing numbers of respondents who believe sermons should be longer. There are also growing numbers of respondents who believe sermons should be shorter. And there aren’t many people in the middle of those two divergent views.

By the way, there is a smaller, but consistent, number that feel the pastor should preach “as long or short as God leads” with no constraints at all. That view is the third of the three perspectives.

I am reticent to put my numbers in statistical percentages since my social media polls of the past three years are not scientific. Since numbers, however, can provide greater clarity, I list them here with the caveat that the accuracy is definitely not precise.

  1. 41%: Sermons should be shorter, in the 20 to 30 minute range. These respondents see a cultural barrier related to short attention spans. Any sermon over 30 minutes, they say, does not connect with the typical mind of today, especially in Western culture. We, therefore, must keep the message shorter and pack more information into a relatively brief time period.
  2. 37%: Sermons should be longer, in the 35 to 55 minute range. A solid exposition of Scripture, this perspective argues, cannot be done in just a few minutes. The sermon is the central part of the worship service, and the time allocated should be significant. We do a disservice to the Word of God when we move toward shorter sermons.
  3. 9%: There should be no time constraints on the pastor’s sermons. The pastor should have a sermon length that is only subject to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Anything else lacks sensitivity to God’s work and involvement.

Obviously, if you add the numbers, another 13% had a variety of responses that fit none of the categories. By way, some of the responses in my most recent social media poll and in previous polls advocated sermon lengths from 8 minutes to 75 minutes. We church members definitely are not in full agreement on these issues.

What do you think of the two trends moving in opposite directions? One group is advocating longer sermons; the other group embraces the shorter sermon. Let me hear your thoughts on this issue.


  1. says

    It’s possible the trends indicate differing views on the means of spiritual formation. I’d bet those who favor longer sermons also see spiritual formation primarily as cognitive while those favoring shorter messages see discipleship more as a relational process. It would be interesting to note the trend by denominational/theological affiliation.

      • says

        A dear mentor of mine once said, “sermonettes produce Christianettes.” Make of that what you will. My hunch, however, is that there are more ramblers and “rabbit chasers” in pulpits today than serious homileticians who truly have the gift of communication and many who have the curse of excessive ego. On that basis alone, I’d risk inspiring a few Christianettes rather than dealing “death by overworked and under-prepared words.”

        • Stephen says

          I’m a pastor and I actually enjoy preaching and listening to longer sermons (30-45 mins) that delve deeply into context, background, Biblical Languages, etc.
          But in regards to “sermonettes producing Christianettes” didn’t Jesus also preach sermonette’s in the parables? And didn’t he also give lengthy sermons, sometimes lasting 3 days?
          I would argue that the key to preaching is knowing your audience, knowing yourself, and knowing your Bible. With these considerations, we should be well-rounded, instead of staunchly long or short preachers.

  2. Mark says

    I think a lot has to do with whether the preacher uses an outline or a written sermon. The outline can make for a longer sermon if the preacher does not realize what time it is. I write in the hard sciences fairly often and know that no reviewer wants to read fluff. It is “cut to the chase.” Too many long sermons would make 2 or 3 short ones with one beneficial take home message in each. The longer they go, the less that is remembered by the individual congregants.

    I like the famed 11-minute homily. However, they are usually 12-15 min.

  3. says

    This has been my experience in asking our staff and elders the same question. I am curious whether you have noticed any demographic divides in the respondent’s answers? It seems the younger demographic leans towards longer in my church, while older staff and elders lean towards shorter.

      • Dave says

        I’m a music guy, but we don’t do the 25-minute song set. Still, I’ve been told by the WMU director (on WMU Emphasis day) that we need to sing less so that people can leave on time. The excuse I was given was some people have to eat every few hours for their blood sugar, so I should craft the service to get out at 12 (not 12:15) so that they don’t have an emergency. My response was that they should have a simple snack between Sunday School and service so they don’t have to worry about it.
        You can see that to her the message was important and in order to keep the time the music should be cut. I appreciate that and am always cognizant of the fact that music is not a service in itself. I also have a gifted preacher that (to me) makes it feel like he just began even though it’s been 40 minutes.

    • TJ says

      Whitney, my experience is the same is yours. I find it ironic since, as Thom pointed out, one of the arguments for shorter sermons is that people today (especially younger people) have short attention spans and wont’ listen to long sermons. Yet, in reality, it’s the younger people who want the longer sermons! This has bee the case at my church where the older members push me to keep my sermons close to 20 minutes while the younger people are happy when I go 40 minutes.

  4. Josh says

    Good debate. I would agree that a well prepared expository message can be delivered in 30 minutes. In most cases if the message is over 30 minutes, the preacher is presenting too much information and perhaps the message should be broken into multiple sermons. Of course, I also believe one should preach for transformation and not merely information and this does put a bias bend to my view.

  5. says

    Sometimes I find my sermons are too long because I have not crafted them well. When I have not taken the time to edit and arrange the content, I can sometimes take 45 minutes to deliver 30 minutes worth of content.

    • Mark Dance says

      That has been my personal experience as well. I have about 30 minutes worth of content, regardless of how long I preach.

    • Isaac says

      Todd, I can appreciate your honesty and can relate. Thom, it’s hard to think of a guy like Alistair Begg preaching too long. At least if he rambles, there’s a nice accent to listen to!

      When I haven’t done the necessary study work beforehand, I find that my concision suffers at the hands of rambling. In my experience, how well the audience tolerates a lengthy sermon is highly dependent on the quality of the product. If I run up there with a great, but not well reasoned and studied though, I *always* ramble and pay much closer attention to the clock. The idea being along the lines of “Oh my! It only took ten minutes….what do I do now??? Just keep going!!!”

      While the argument has been made that the culture is crafted for 30 attention spans, I don’t feel it’s entirely fair. The age of the sitcom has been over for some time and most adult-aged shows are longer in length.

      Most movies are 90-120 minutes.
      Prime time television shows rest heavily at an hour in length.
      Plays, 2-3 hours.
      Lectures at universities, 45-75 minutes.
      Sporting events 2-4 hours.
      What modern video game demands any less than an hour of commitment per setting?
      Recitals, 1-2 hours.

      …aside from Spongebob and a few other silly shows that the kids watch, I’m not sure we have a good case to say we are preconditioned to the short spans.

      Rather, I wonder if maybe the rich investment in plot, character, and story development that we see in modern TV shows, movies, and video games has raised the bar for the traditional sermon. When men (like myself) display a lackluster performance because we have not shared the Bible with a greater handle on its richness and development, how else would our people respond?

      • David says

        Isaac, I actually went to a “story-telling” workshop to help develop the skills to which you refer. Sermons that move the hearer forward–and upward–are engaging and appealing to all ages. Sermons that are a series of 3-5 unrelated vignettes don’t move the hearers at all, in any direction. As you rightly point out, if the points of the sermon help the hearer reach a “goal,” they will remain engaged for much longer than 25-35 minutes.

        With that said, I still aim at a 23-27 minute sermon. Why? Because we have a lot of older members who still expect everything to be wrapped up in an hour. Our younger folks, not so much. As long as we have a Nursery and a Children’s Worship for their kids, they can stay attentive way longer than our older members.

        • Isaac says

          Thanks for the affirmation, David!

          Crafting a sermon that well sure makes me dig deep!

          And I find myself stuck in that 30-35 minute range. Any shorter (even if the context doesn’t demand it to be longer) and I feel uncomfortable so I usually add more content. For some reason it feels better to make a 25 minute sermon 30 minutes long…probably my own preconditioning. I could get started earlier and preach longer, but even those who wouldn’t mind me going past the noon bell still seem to have their attention spans drop off.

          With all that said, I typically prepare enough information to preach however long their attention span will allow. With the content I bring into the pulpit each week, I could easily deliver 45-50 minutes each time, but I tailor it down depending on when services start and however long the music portion lasts.

          After giving it some thought, I may have to recant my statement about 30 minute attention spans. When churches train their members to expect any particular sort of format or length, they may have trouble shaking loose. (Think 3 songs, an offering, and a special)

  6. Fred Smith says

    Sometimes it takes 45 minutes to deliver 30 minutes of content because we want to elaborate on the illustrations. We want to make them “alive” and “engaging”. Illustrations are just that and should get to the point quickly. It should be “A boy was fishing one morning when. . .” not “It was a warm sunny day and a young boy decided, as young boys will, to pick up his pole and a can of worms and head to his favorite fishing hole, a pretty little brook with. . .” I hear preachers do this all the time and it only distracts rather than engages.

  7. says

    Thom, I wonder how much the ability of the preacher that respondents hear most often plays into the desired length. Don’t know how you can factor that in but I have to think it has some impact.. Additionally, I think the idea that the western mind attention span is shortening has some serious drawbacks. Millions of people sitting through 3 hour Lord of the Rings movies, or millions of NASCAR fans watching cars turn left for two hours would seem to say we will pay attention for long periods to things we are interested in, no matter how long they drag on.

      • Brian Mathis says

        Actually people pay more for a ball game or a movie than the average church member pays in tithes. The real excitement is when the game goes into overtime or extra innings. So I have to agree if its something they connect with they will stay till the very end.

  8. Randy says

    In my 25 years of preaching, I’ve never actually timed my sermons. It usually works out to be 25 or 30 minutes. Truth it I preach ’til I’m done.

  9. Drew says

    Maybe it just depends on the preacher? I would bet that some of the respondents have pastors that are more gifted at preaching shorter sermons but are trying to fit a “mold” based on their favorite preacher (MacArthur, Dever) and so they go longer. Other respondents may have a pastor who is forced to preach shorter sermons due to tradition, time constraints in the service, etc. but these listeners enjoy the sermon and want him to preach longer! I just think some pastors can make a long sermon work because they are organized, clear, and full of good content. Others are not so gifted and a long sermon is because they’re rambling!

  10. Steve says

    I think this is more reflective of having a Christian Worldview vs. not. Of having an understanding of the Word of God as actually being God’s Word vs. some speech an entertainer gets up and performs on Sunday. Of having a knowledge of the historical background of the worship service. Point number two appears to be both right and wrong. Traditionally speaking, the sermon is “A” central part of the worship service. One of two central parts, with the Eucharist/Communion/Lord’s Supper as the other, co-equal part. We’ve gotten away with that, and when we have, most churches have not added any significant second central part of the service, so the service has become singing and preaching.

    Scientifically speaking, sermons play a significant part of the discipleship of our minds (cf. “Rewiring Your Preaching: How the Brain Processes Sermons” by Richard H. Cox.). The short answer is, preaching can rewire one’s brain.

    I’m assuming that the proponents of shorter sermons are also those who tend to cater to the “seeker” crowd. But if preaching really is God’s message to His people, can we really cut it off to fit our desires? I believe the question should be: “Is the Church changed to fit culture, or does the Church seek to change and influence culture?”

    As far as the three views go, I’m somewhere in the middle of the second and third view, and whole-heartedly reject view number one on many of the areas I’ve just articulated above. I am someone with a short attention span, but that is a barrier I have to fight to overcome. You better believe if my wife is reading a love letter she’s written to me and it takes her awhile to do so, I’m listening to the whole thing.

    Thom, here’s a question I’d love to see the answer to: “How long should the whole service be?” And a second one could be “What aspect of the worship service is most meaningful to you?”

    Of course, part of the problem is that we don’t really know what it means to be the Church (until we read “I Am A Church Member” 😉 ), and then with that, what a worship service really is. I’ll be eagerly awaiting your future book publication: “I am a worshiper!”

    • Thom Rainer says

      What humbles me is to read responses like this one that are better than my post. By the way, my next book is not too far from the topic you noted. Thank you.

    • says

      Does spiritual formation really happen in the context of the church sermon though? Is that even possible or reasonable to expect in the 21st century, when you can have such a vast wealth of Christian knowledge at your fingertips on your phone or tablet (far more than even the above average professional minister did even perhaps as recently as 100 years ago)?

      • steve says

        Richard Cox’s book says “yes!”

        Also, that “vast wealth of Christian knowledge” is being compared by those called of God for, amongst other very important aspects, to convey His Word to His people in a relevant way. We can’t, nor shouldn’t, discount that God really is the one speaking in a sermon–assuming a pastor takes the calling seriously and has a first-rate spiritual life.

        To be honest, I much prefer the small group and one-on-one mentoring settings for spiritual formation. And I lean heavier towards outside-of-the-worship service-evangelistic preaching as the type of preaching we’re supposed to be doing.

        But if we’re going to have sermons, at least we should look at them and value them correctly. And Cox’s research in the area of neurobiology suggests they do. Otherwise, have solid homilies as part of the worship service and then place a strong emphasis on discipleship groups (I’d say with at least two meetings/person/wk). But the important thing in my opinion is that we remember the purpose of the worship service. That it has balance. And that it reflects the nature of the worship service. Prayer and God’s Word are it’s tapestry, first of all. Whether there is a sermon or more of a homily, I won’t make that argument.

        My main point is that how we experience the preaching of God’s Word, as part of the worship service, depends on whether our worldview is fundamentally Christian, and whether our understanding of the worship service is rooted in Christian tradition or self-entertainment.

    • Mark says

      “I’m assuming that the proponents of shorter sermons are also those who tend to cater to the “seeker” crowd.”

      I think you would be surprised. Some Of the best homilies I have heard have been 10-14 minutes. By best I mean the ones that got me to think about what was said and try to put it to use in everyday life. These priests weren’t catering to the seeker crowd. They all preached some really tough sermons based on the example of Jesus and knowing human nature at the same time.

      This may have been why the confession was said a bit louder that Sunday.

      • steve says

        I believe that great homilies can be preached in a short amount of time. I am not saying that.

        What I perceived to be the foundational basis for the argument of the first view was that it was rooted in catering the inspired Word of God through the inspired chosen instrument of God (the preacher) to the people, as opposed to placing an expectation of the people to change because of what they are experiencing. That is, when we say “These respondents see a cultural barrier related to short attention spans,” I read this not as a matter of being cogent and concise, but as simply a matter of time. As if, we’re giving God an allotted time of one day a week at which He may communicate to us. And He should be happy to get it. Almost like we have the audacity to give Him “visitation” rights. To me, that is an issue of a fundamental misunderstanding of the Body of Christ, the event of Worship, and a Christian Worldview.

        If a cogent and concise sermon or homily can be written much shorter while still conveying God’s inspired words for His people, great. All I’m saying is that our own short attention spans should not be the focus. Faithfully conveying what He wants to say should.

        Also, because there are so many variables in a congregation, what may seem as unnecessary to some may be quite necessary in the conveying of God’s Word to a varied people group. You might immediately grasp an analogy. Some of us can naturally produce an application to a sermon. Others of us need it articulated. Some of us are abstract thinkers, some concrete. Men and women experience sermons differently. Some of us have different “listening styles”: ethos vs logos vs pathos. Many of us are at different “grace stages,” and so need to hear something that hits on various progressions of the Christian walk. My point is simply that when our style of listening or learning has been addressed, we may then decide everything else is filler or meaningless. It may well be. But it also may be meant for someone who learns or hears differently than you or me….

        • says

          You wrote: “As if, we’re giving God an allotted time of one day a week at which He may communicate to us. And He should be happy to get it. Almost like we have the audacity to give Him “visitation” rights.”

          That’s an interesting perception. I’ve never thought of it as giving God an allotted time of one day a week to communicate with me because I communicate with Him constantly. And I never have perceived the sermons as some special visitation because I believe He is with me all the time. Not all those who listen to the sermon on a Sunday perceive the sermon in that way. It’s more of an exhortation, a lesson, or, if needed, correction for me than a once-weekly appointment with Him. The sermon is just one part of my personal walk with Him and my knowledge of Him. The rest for me comes from my own study and prayer time. However, I suppose if someone only gets fed on Sunday it could be that way. But it’s not that way for me.

    • Keith says

      A shorter sermon is not necessarily a weaker or inferior sermon. All the same criticisms that can be attributed to the short sermon can be charged to longer ones.

      The point is what is the purpose of a Sunday morning worship service? When it is all about the sermon, there is something wrong. When people do not think the Sunday service was “good” when what they really mean is the sermon wasn’t “good,” there is a problem. We are conditioned to correlate “going to church” with listening to the sermon. I have a hard time seeing this model and mindset in the New Testament.

      • steve says

        Keith, I whole-heartedly agree with everything you said. Please see my other responses for further clarification.

        Shortly, the answer given for why sermons should be shorter was not rooted in the cogency and conciseness of a sermon, but was instead rooted in cultural norms and expectations. That is, what I want. What I like. What I’m comfortable with: “These respondents see a cultural barrier related to short attention spans.” Note that that does not mention the respondents seeing a barrier because sermons are shallow or unnecessarily wordy.

      • Mark says

        There are church services that are sermon centered and there are those that are Eucharist centered. I think the focus of the service needs to be on the latter and the reading from the Bible.

        • steve says

          It is my understanding that historically speaking, both had equal weight/focus until the past few hundred years, when the view of the Eucharist “evolved” in protestant denominations to be nothing more than a remembrance. I agree that the Eucharist needs to reclaim its spot of being worthy of focus. I tend to sway towards the line of thinking you’ve expressed, but I’ve also had it engrained in me to know that traditionally, both the preaching of God’s Word and the Eucharist were co-equally weighted aspects that the service centered around.

          If the service is Word-saturated and if the church has a great, intentional focus on discipleship, I could easily live with that. Of course, the elephant in the room is what expression use for partaking of the elements? I prefer something that considers the fullness of the early church and incorporates the various expressions encompassed by what is meant by all of the terms we use: Eucharist, Communion, the Lord’s Supper. I prefer that being in the shape of a shared community meal.

  11. Adam says

    The longest sermons I have heard have also been the most shallow with the preacher just rambling on and on. There’s nothing worse than listening to a 50 min sermon that could have been preached in 5.

    As a pastor who values expository preaching I never time my sermons as I prepare. I preach until I have fully communicated the text. However, it usually ends up being 25 to 30 mln.

    • steve says

      “As a pastor who values expository preaching I never time my sermons as I prepare. I preach until I have fully communicated the text.”

      I love it and agree. If that’s 15 minutes, it is 15 minutes. If it is 50, it is 50. If we can cut out fat, we cut it out. But we sure don’t want to cut out the nutrients! I wonder to what extent peoples’ issues with sermon length are dictated by depth of sermon as opposed to a fundamental understanding of worship.

  12. says

    I tend to take the Goldilocks approach and avoid what I would consider the too long or too short sermon. My standard for over 30 years has been to preach shorter than we worship and we generally worship for 30 minutes. Our overall service time is 75 minutes for three services per Sunday.

  13. says

    Extra innings of a baseball game is deemed “free baseball.” Extra minutes of preaching is deemed “lack of preparation?” There is something wrong here.

    • FMJohnson says

      Extra innings of baseball can be the result of two excellent teams playing at their highest level of skill until one of them manages to scratch out a winning run.

      Or, it can be the result of two lousy teams who keep giving up multiple runs to each other every inning until one of them manages to not lose.

      The same would be true for “extra minutes of preaching.” Occasionally, long sermons are the result of excellent preparation and great preaching. On those occasions I don’t actually know how long the sermon was because I haven’t been checking the time.

      But generally (not uniformly), long sermons are the result of poor preparation: the preacher is rambling, re-iterating points already made, forgetting where he (or she) left off on their last point, essentially ranging around and tap-dancing until they are sure they’ve said everything they thought they might want to say.

      “If I am to speak for ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.” Woodrow Wilson

  14. Heath says

    I think the manuscript vs outline point is right on. I’ve moved outline to allow myself to be more dependent on the Holy Spirit to empower my preaching. No longer do I worth about saying everything I have written in a manuscript, and my sermons are now in the 35 minute range from 45 minutes.
    Peter preached a pretty short sermon in Acts 2, but seems to have given effective exposition from the OT scriptures.

    • Ken says

      That is a fair point, but it’s not always the preacher’s fault. Many times people overdo it with the announcements and other preliminaries so the pastor doesn’t get into the pulpit until a quarter till twelve. If that happens, it’s not fair to blame him for the service running over the usual time.

  15. says

    I am somewhere between opinion #1 and #2. You cannot deny the reality of our sound-bite age and the effects it has had on people’s attention span and on the way they process information. It does take some time, however, to develop and present a Bible-based expository sermon. Perhaps that means we preachers must face the reality and work harder to make our sermons interesting and engaging. When I was studying for my secondary teacher’s certificate (back in the dark ages) I was taught that a good lesson plan for high school students would include at least three learning activities for the hour or 50 minutes you had them in your class. This principle might help the preacher. Rather than droning on, he might try to include some illustrations or other features that would punctuate and highlight the message. (I don’t know why I’m saying this, because I’m probably the world’s worst at monotony!)

  16. david says

    Two points:

    1) There are very few preachers who can hold my interest for more than 30 minutes.

    2) Someone mentioned demographics. I wonder if the response depended on whether it was a preacher or a listener?

    I say what I have to say, and I quit. Usually about 25-30 minutes.

    Here is a funny, but true story. My dad was a pastor for years in the same church, in a small town. Every day (including Sunday) at noon they blew the “fire Siren”. He said he always tried to be finished before the siren blew, because once the congregants heard the siren, worship was over, whether he was finished or not.

  17. Kim says

    As a pastor’s daughter, I would say on average 20-30. I know there are exceptions. But unless the topic and speaker are really engaging, the majority of your congregation is not going to have an attention span over 30 minutes.

    One person compared sitting in a sermon to sitting through a movie or watching a race. I totally agree with the point they were making. But, at the same time, you have to remember that during the movie and races, etc, you are free to get up and go to the bathroom, get snacks, check your phone, look at facebook, talk, etc. Even in the theaters, people can’t make it through a movie without looking at their phone. But in church, this is considered unacceptable and we are expected to sit still and listen.

    One of the worst sermons ever was a Sunday night sermon at a sister church that lasted over an hour and I have no idea what the pastor was talking about because after 35 minutes, I was reading lyrics in the hymnal.

  18. Brent says

    As a trained educator, they usually tell us to keep our lessons to about 15-20 minutes when covering new material. Hence I believe the trend toward shorter sermons for some people have come from the education realm not from the church.
    I am of the opinion that the sermon should be long enough to adequately cover the material. Anyway I have been in places where the preacher has been speaking for 10 minutes and I’m praying that he’ll hush, also on the opposite side I have heard sermons that went 90 minutes and wishes he could have gone longer.

  19. says

    I do my best to keep them between 20-30 minutes. It is my experience that people start to “check out” if you go too long. Whether that is right or wrong is up for debate…but it seems to be common. I have preached as long as 45 minutes and no one complained…but I don’t do it often. I had a preaching professor tell the class that if you can’t preach it in less than 30 minutes…you have too much material. Once again…that is probably debatable.

  20. Mark says

    If someone wants to do the work, look at what the Catholic and Episcopal/Anglican seminaries teach their students in preaching class and compare that to what the evangelicals teach in theirs. I think you will find a significant difference. It seems like the former teaches students to make one point well. (They have much more in their services besides singing and preaching, especially when the readings and prayers take 20 minutes.) The latter teaches two kinds, the short one for use in chapel and the long one for use in church on Sunday. The chapel ones tend to be better, IMHO. Sometimes one sentence is all that is needed to make a point.

  21. Rick Brooks says

    While I can agree that some sermons are way too long, regardless of the minutes involved, it seems to me that the short sermon is largely “culture driven.” It is not automatic that a longer sermon is spiritual or helpful, but in general, it seems that the church should be steering culture, not the other way around. Yes, I tend to preach about 45 minutes, but there is something folksy about our interaction while I’m preaching. I disagree with the “edit the illustrations to their bare minimum” view too. I think few well-placed adjectives and colloquialisms can relax the crowd and draw them into the sermon better than the “I’m rushed for time and let’s get to lunch” approach. Bottom line for me is this: it just seems like much of church activity today is geared toward a culture that wants to get their religion done quickly and get on to something more entertaining. As a preacher, I want to bring our people down to earth again and enjoy fellowshipping around the Word as did that first century church.

    Thanks for all the interesting topics, Thom!

  22. says

    I am not a preacher. This is just me, but I rarely take away an entire sermon be it long or short. I mind/heart tend to take “nuggets” from either. I do believe: however, that the Holy Spirit should the choreographer of the entire service. I dream of the day when praying gets so intense and spirited that there is no time left for music or sermon or anything save “Praising and thanking the Lord”.

    • Craig GIddens says

      I don’t disagree with view on prayer, but the preaching of God’s word should be a central focus of the church.

      For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:17-18)

      Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. (1 Timothy 2:7-8)

      Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine (1 Timothy 4:13)

      Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. (2 Timothy 4:2)

  23. Doug Snipes says

    My father in law told me when I started preaching that the reason we preach longer is because we are usually enjoying it more that the people listening because we have spent so much time preparing the sermon. My personal opinion is the content is key. There have been sermons I have heard that I was hoping would end soon and there have been some I was upset when it was finished. Great post. I leave you with the words I heard in college from an old preacher. “The mind can only comprehend what the seat can endure” God Bless

  24. Stuart Allsop says

    Perhaps this won’t go down too well with some, but in all honesty I have heard 1 hour sermons that were way too short, and 20 minute sermons that had me falling asleep! And in both cases, the subject of the sermon was the exact same thing… In both cases it was purely an issue of the preacher, not the sermon.

    Some preachers can keep the entire congregation on the edge of their seats for hours, absorbing every word deeply, contemplatively, changing lives, while others just can’t seem to muster enough interest to get past “Good morning, please open your Bibles to….” without half the audience nodding off.

    I use “congregation” and “audience” deliberately above, since there’s a vast difference between them: a true preacher of God’s word, delivering the true word of God, under the true anointing of the Holy Spirit, has a congregation in front of him or her. A preacher with some things he wants to say, only has an audience.

    Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but I’m not just talking about other preachers here: the above applies to me as well. Sometimes when I preach, I have to admit that 30 minutes of my waffling is way too long and my audience didn’t get much benefit at all. Other times, when I get out of the way and just let the Holy Spirit preach through me, then 50 minutes isn’t enough, and the congregation is deeply affected. Not because of something I said or did, but because of something the Lord said or did using me as a conduit. Because of God’s Word, not my words.

    Perhaps that’s the issue here: it’s not about how many minutes we humans should allot to the sermon, but rather how much we are willing to allow God to be God during His service. I am convinced that if preachers would just “stand aside” mentally in the pulpit and let God do the preaching, instead of trying to do it themselves, then congregations might not even notice at all if the sermon ran for 10 minutes or 2 hours. It would be the exact right length, timed by God himself.

    I wish I knew the secret of how to do that consistently, since I am forced to paint myself with the same brush with which I have painted other preachers here: sometimes it still is just me up there, waffling too long. I would be lying if I pretended different. I wish I could understand what I need to do each time I preach to always “step out of the way” and let the Holy Spirit do the preaching, instead of me: I don’t know what the key is, but I strongly suspect it has a LOT to do with spending more time in prayer while preparing the sermon, and less time watching the clock while delivering it.

  25. says

    I prepare to preach about 30 minutes as well, although I do end up at 40 minutes sometimes (or regularly). I want the message to be engaging enough that the end is well attended and able to make the point. If I lose the congregation along the way, the main purpose of the sermon may be missed at the time of decision. I will say that I have listened to 45 minute sermons that I wish could go on for another 30 and 20 minute sermons that I wish would have been 10. I think the preacher needs to know how long he is able to engage the congregation- which is partly due to the preacher’s style and partly due to the congregation’s experience- and preach towards that goal. The Word doesn’t return void- unless it was sent into a void to begin with!

  26. David J. Faulkner says

    I believe the results of this survey can be directly attributed to whether or not the Pastor is delivering meaningful content under the conviction of the HOLY SPIRIT! Most likely, those who desired shorter sermons are sitting under a Pastor who views his role as a “JOB” and who has never had a real experience with the HOLY SPIRIT, OR the respondents are only attending Church for the social benefit of being seen. In either case, the Pastor or the Congregant Respondent to your survey, does not have a relationship with the HOLY SPIRIT.
    For those who responded with a desire for longer sermons, most likely the Pastor, under the conviction of the HOLY SPIRIT, is revealing the Mystery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and/or the congregant survey respondents come to Church with their hearts prepared to submit to the conviction of the HOLY SPIRIT and hunger to hear the Word of God and to Understand the Mystery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
    Oh Laodicea, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
    So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
    Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
    I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
    As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
    Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
    To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
    He that hath an ear, let him hear what the SPIRIT saith unto the churches.
    Rev 3:15-22 (KJV)

    • Phil Wilson says

      Isn’t it sad that only 9% wanted to let the Spirit lead? But I’m afraid that number may be high.

  27. Steven Chapman says

    I am sure that when the numbers are broken down, apart from generational and denominational differences, you will find a tremendous ethnic difference as well. I preach in a multi-ethnic congregation. The whites are happy with a 25-30 minute message. The African-Americans feel robbed if the message is under 35 minutes. However, many of our African-American members left hour+ preaching churches to come to ours. My typical message is in the 33-35 minute range.

  28. Robbie Perkins says

    I think both shorter and longer sermons have great points and possibly the factor to determine the length is the audience. Some churches that are more high impact and bringing in greater numbers of unchurched, first time guests, might be suited to a shorter message where they would be less likely to become disengaged before the opportunity is given to respond to the gospel.

    That being said, on the other hand, there is no replacing solid, expository preaching. And as a pastor who strives to preach expository messages, I sometimes almost sense either in sermon prep or even while preaching, that is time to stop here and finish the message next week. Rather than making everybody wish I would stop. I say that and I typically preach for 30-40 minutes.

    I think another aspect is the preacher. There are some men that can preach for an hour without losing their audience and there are others who can’t. It is no insult, they just can’t. I don’t think there is a right answer across the board.

  29. Mike Hurst says

    To the 41%: Culture should never dictate sermon length or exposition. If we back our sermon length down in time based on what society can handle, we will soon see shallow pep talks lasting only a handful of minutes. Follow Holy Spirit and preach on!

  30. Phil Wilson says

    Well, first off, I never look at my watch and we do not have a clock hanging in the sanctuary. Some messages are 20 minutes, some are 45; it depends on the message, the subject, etc. I’m afraid trying to fit a message into a time slot limits the Holy Ghost in His work. That said, I understand three areas where constraints can cause the length of a message to be a concern:

    1. Recorded events for media. (I once did a presentation on “The Way, The Truth & The Life” in 5 minutes flat for a TV spot.)
    2. Multiple services that are back to back. I get it- we have another crowd coming in.
    3. I’ve never forgotten what an elder said once- “Never preach yourself past the anointing; leave enough for a response.”

    Lastly, I’ll share with you that I recently had a well-meaning minister “advise” me that you will lose people if you preach a message over 20-25 minutes. I guess he needs to let Mark Driscoll and John Piper know!

  31. Charlie says

    Have you done any study on the correlation in the length of the sermon with the length of he entire service?

  32. Ken says

    It depends on the preacher and his message. I’ve known some preachers who could make an hour seem like a few minutes, and I’ve known others who can a few minutes seem like hours!

    • Ted Haws says

      I have found that the use of PPT has made longer sermons far more endurable as they add the visual with the verbal, as well as becoming a whole focal point of its own with what visuals are added. I used to preach fairly long sermons for sitting lengths (~30 minutes), but with PPT that can inject humor with the serious are engaging, and I now speak around 40-45 minutes. That is in a service of 1:15 hours.
      The relational factor cannot ever be ignored. The more personal connection with those who are present the much more they are attentive and longer.

      Ted Haws, Trinity Baptist, Lebanon, OR

  33. Steven Stutzman says

    I really think this may depend on the preacher and his ability and also the text. I’ve heard preachers who could keep you going with them for an hour. Others I was looking at the watch wondering when it will be over after ten minutes. As a preacher, and to be fair, there are plenty of times where I want to keep going and times when I want myself to stop! I’m sure the gift of the pastor, what kind of week he had, his audience, their maturity, and plenty of other things are weigh into how one would answer.

    Also the text dictates the length. Pauline epistles are notoriously difficult for me but narratives of Jesus are much easier. Paul’s writings are so interwoven so I have the necessity of unwrapping before enjoying whats inside. Some passages are simply straight forward and others you have to dissect and plenty in between.

  34. Craig GIddens says

    How does the structure of the morning service play into this? In most Baptist churches I’ve attended the order of service is pretty much the same each week almost to the point of being ritualistic. So much time alloted for muisc, taking up the offering, announcements, the sermon …etc. The time alloted for preaching remains constant and most pastors feel if they change up the service it will upset people who mostly tend to be creatures of habit . If the preacher has a lot of content he wants to present he either crams it into the alloted time or stretches it out into two sermons. Personally I’ver heard 20 minute sermons that just seemed to drag on and I’ve heard hour long sermons in which the time seemed to fly by.

  35. says

    I feel longer sermons are helpful since most people only attend one teaching time per week. When churches had Sunday School, Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night there were a lot more minutes of teaching!

    We are in our 50’s but attend a church where the majority are in their 20’s and 30’s. Out pastor usually preaches between 55-75 minutes. The entire service usually runs from 10:00 to 11:45, but many people hang around chatting until 12:15.

  36. says

    I think the key is to leave people motivated by God’s Word and wanting more. I often gauge the people in my church when my sermons run longer than 35 minutes to see if it was too long to them. As long as I am hearing they were moved and did not realize it was that long I’m okay. Also I have tried to follow the Holy Spirit’s prompting when I need to end a sermon at a point long before my outline is finished! It’s unfortunate when, through pride, we insist on blazing through the whole outline when the Spirit may be prompting to tell us He already communicated what needed communicated and that moment is ripe for a response time! Let’s be committed to prepare well so we can preach well!

  37. Mark says

    The one part of the sermon that no one has mentioned yet is the altar call, or invitation. Sometimes the invitation starts halfway through the sermon. Other times it is tacked on the end. Some churches do not have them at all. Some bishops offer them once a year on confirmation Sunday. When the invitation starts and goes on for 10 minutes or so, people used to and may still pick up the song book and be ready to sing. One loud preacher who shall remain nameless noticed that most people in the crowd (avg age 21) had their song books out flipping through them. Then he took his own song book, beat on the lectern with it and asked “did I say you could take the song books out?” There was more commotion as the books were returned to the racks. People then started doing everything under the sun but left the books alone.

  38. Ben says

    While I understand what the advocates of number 3 are saying, I always think back to what a very wise and respected preaching professor told our class. “The Holy Spirit works on Tuesdays, too.”

  39. Bert Walker says

    I have found that the younger crowd including “seekers” of knowledge and truth are the people who want the sermons to be longer. The older crowd, most of whom grew up in church, want the sermons shorter. I believe this has more to do with tradition and expectations than anything else. The seekers are not bound by tradition and have no expectations of what church, including the length of the sermon, should be. Those who have been in church all their lives have grown up in a culture where church ended at noon. If it did not end at noon then the preacher preached too long. I remember growing up in church and hearing complaints from many adults any time the sermon went past noon, even less than 5 minutes. Church culture is powerful. Anyone who has served in ministry is acutely aware of just how powerful. Perhaps this is why there are these two divergent trends showing up in the research.

    • Mark says

      And when church did not get out at noon, people did not get in the front of the line at the country club brunch. This was in the south where communion came after the sermon. There once was a guest preacher who was interviewing in a church of Christ on the Sunday of Mother’s Day, when the local country club had a brunch which was quite posh. The interviewing cofC preacher went long, the Baptists, meanwhile, cut theirs a little short and the Methodists weren’t having communion that Sunday so theirs was short too. The cofC wound up in the back of the line at brunch. That fellow interviewing was not getting the position even if his name had been St. Paul.

  40. Jeremy says

    Hi Thom. Good post. However, whilst many have talked about the skills required of the preacher in order to dictate length, I can’t help but wonder if we are missing something here about the Christian in the congregation and their responsibility to tune in to what is being preached. In other words, if we would call ourselves disciples then we should want to hear what our Master is saying through the sermon, regardless of who is preaching and for how long. Peter tells us to ‘crave’ spiritual milk. Jesus said man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Apart from the preacher then and despite what we might think of his sermon, is our primary focus concentrated on receiving what God wants to say to us during today’s message? If not, perhaps we have an unhealthy fixation on being entertained by the abilities of today’s speaker – or the lack of them?

  41. DT says

    Many liturgical churches utilize shorter sermons because they believe God is also speaking through other aspects of the service, such as Scripture readings and the Lord’s Supper.

    If you’re preaching 45+ minutes, listen to your sermon and cut out the stand up comedy routine, the extended illustration, and the Greek words and then see what’s left. Maybe you believe your audience needs that stuff, but you might be surprised how much they appreciate getting to the point.

    • jonathon says

      Most homilies are one point long. Usually translatable into “Start doing this”, or “Stop doing that”.

      Whether that is because liturgical churches follow a lectionary, and it is rare for two or more points to be found in all readings, or because longer sermons cause a proportionally longer service,I do not know.

      • Mark says

        However, that advice is supported by the gospel portion. Hence, Jesus himself was teaching his followers the same thing.

  42. says

    I think it depends on the orator’s ability to write succinctly and not repeat themselves. I get frustrated listening to sermons that drone on and run a point into the ground when I got it the first time. However, there may be those listeners that need a repetitive reinforcement. I don’t know. I prefer meaty, shorter sermons rather than long, fluffy ones. But I don’t like short fluffy ones, either. As long as a sermon keeps me engaged and introduces me to valuable material, I can listen. But I think most people stop listening after about 20 minutes and their mind wanders. You’re not engaging them anyway. Still, the Holy Spirit is timeless so there’s that. It’s definitely an art form of sorts. And some folks are just better at it than others.

  43. says

    I think it all depends on what people think the point of a sermon is. Information? (No) Persuasion? (Rarely) Motivation (usually)

    Education today is not about the correct information, pastors are not the repository of information, that’s what the Internet, DVD’s, and eBooks are for. Today, education is teaching people how to ask the right questions, how to think (biblically, for Christians)

    Sometimes we want to draw clear lines and persuade that (for example) Jesus is divine, the cross is our only hope, abortion/homosexuality (etc.) are indeed sins…

    Mostly we need to motivate.

    We need humor, wimsey, powerful images, and the right message boiled down to just enough for the hearers at that time.

    Guess who does this well? TED talks.

    For many reasons, they have an 18 minute cap, and I think (unless your church is counter-cultural ‘bubble Christians’ who don’t engage the real world) we should think about that.

    20 min is plenty of time to explain, illustrate, and apply a text’s MAIN POINT. The rest is gibberish.

    The pushback is “how can you cover everything in a text in 20 min”

    My response to that: “how long do you think it takes to adequately cover a text? In my Advanced Greek Grammar class we’d routinely spend 4 hours on half a chapter… Is that practical?”

    This is coming from, honestly, immature people who believe their primary Biblical intake is the sermon every Sunday. This is how we have people littered all over the place who think homosexuals can’t get saved, drinking alcohol is a sin, and only perverts dance. By the way, the Baptist Hymnal 1956 and KJV Bible 1611 are the last sacred books we have.

    Sad. Preach for effect.

    “Teaching them to observe (do)” Matt 28:20

    • says

      TED talk speakers more than likely spend weeks on presenting to that audience. Communicating clearly and at that high of a level is easier said than done. Especially when most pastors are “pastoring” way more than they are preaching. I would agree that we should learn from TED speakers on communication though.

  44. says

    Put me with the 9% … It should be Holy Spirit driven. A sermon can be 10 minutes, it can be an hour or longer. It’s his call.

    At my old church, a gentleman told me sermons should never be longer than 15-20 minutes. I told him that he would have been a big downer at the Sermon of the Mount. He smiled =)

  45. says

    Interesting percentages. I like what Kevin DeYoung said at a conference at Gordon-Conwell awhile back during a Q&A… “How long should a sermon be?” KD: “As long as it can be without being fired.” I’ve heard all three views in my own church, but often the age demographic for the shorter view is an older generation while younger generations don’t mind longer sermons. I’d be curious to learn of a broader age demographic percentage for these views. That would be interesting. Also, many seem to want the worship service to be no more than an hour, I wonder how a balance as a worship leader/pastor of a small church might be found between both extremes of shorter and longer?

  46. Paul says

    Based on some of the posts (I haven’t read them all) the apostle Paul wouldn’t stand a chance today. Certainly a babbler (Acts 17:18) who doesn’t speak in persuasive words (1 Corinthians 2:1-5) had better improve on his preaching skills.

    Perhaps the Spirit is at work and the particular details ought to be left with Him.

  47. Hal says

    It amazes me that the group in the 20 to 30 minute range attributes their reasoning to the following:
    “These respondents see a cultural barrier related to short attention spans”.

    It’s almost sadly humorous that our culture can spend several hours in a stadium in near freezing weather cheering on their favorite football team in an overtime game and think nothing of the time allotted to this activity. Yet when the pastor goes five minutes over in a Sunday morning sermon, preaching about something as important as the condition of our souls, we want to fire the guy.

    In reality…this is more about a culture that has its priorities in the wrong place. After all, it seems our attention spans are directly regulated according to what is important to us and what is not.

    I’m in that small community that believes that the length of a sermon should be regulated by God and the Holy Spirit rather than by a congregation with one eye on the pastor and the other on their Timex.

  48. Ben Thorp says

    I think that there are a number of factors at work, both in terms of the length of a sermon, but also in terms of how people respond to sermon length:

    1. What do the people think a sermon is for? If they think a sermon is primarily about a didactic conveying of information, then they will likely think that sermons are too long based on current thinking about teaching.

    2. What is people’s level of maturity? Most school pupils think they should have less school and homework. Most parents don’t 😉

    3. What does the preacher think sermons are for? Much like point (1), a preacher may preacher shorter, punchier sermons if they think it’s just about conveying an idea.

    4. What is the preacher’s level of maturity? Immature preachers often don’t know how to weed out the non-essentials in a sermon.

    5. What is the preacher’s level of gifting? When people ask me about how long they should preach, I tend to say “it depends”. Some people could preach for 60 minutes and leave you wanting more. Others can preach for 10 and still leave you wanting less!

    6. What are the other structures in the church for discipleship? People who are well discipled and led in the Word are less likely to be looking to the Sunday sermon as their primary (or even sole!) point of contact with the Word.

  49. Bob Browning says

    I guess I fall in either the longer sermon camp or the Spirit-lead camp. As a former member of The Church at Brook Hills, I saw a few times where Pastor David preached for less than 30 minutes – and he did a great job and it was very appropriate. However, these were the exceptions and not the rule. In general, I don’t think you can faithfully explain most texts and make application in less than 30 minutes. The question for the shorter sermon crowd then is whether or not they are faithfully advocating a recovery of expository preaching. I think that’s a better litmus test than sermon length. My guess (showing my skepticism here) is that most of the folks wanting shorter sermons are not good expositors, but instead are opting for Christianized pep talks.

  50. says

    In reading through the article & comments, I’m reminded of two comments that Charles Spurgeon made.

    First, “If some men were sentenced to hear their own sermons, they would soon cry out with Cain, ‘My punishment is more than I can bear!'”

    Second, “Surely if men’s hearts were right, shorter sermons would suffice.”

    I preach as long as it takes to deal adequately with the text in front of me. Generally, for me, that means 30-40 minutes; although sometimes I like to preach for 25 just to keep the deacons on their toes. :-)

    Good article, Dr. Rainer!

      • Bryan says

        Maybe we should spend a little more time on how we can love our congregations better, how we can give more one on one time to the individuals who come to our church, understand their needs, wants and hopes. Love them for who they are, where ever they are in their faith journey and promise them blessings that only God can provide.

  51. David Jones says

    Ernest Campbell, who preached for years from the pulpit of The Riverside Church in New York City, said, “A good sermon can never be too long; a poor one can never be short enough.”

    There’s some humor in that. There’s also considerable wisdom in it.

  52. says

    I believe it rests on the pastor and his gift of teaching. For instance, Matt Chandler could talk about paint drying for an hr and people would want to listen. That being said there are very few great communicators out there like this. Being realistic with your capabilities and looking at the data will point most preachers to the thirty minute range.

  53. Louise says

    I believe the average attention span is 10 minutes at best, whatever the age. So unless you REALLY have a vital word from God that takes an hour to convey, why do ministers expect that people should be able to sit inert and give their full attention to an hour long sermon? If you’re going to preach much longer than 10 minutes, make sure you have plenty of hands-on illustrations (and a video in the middle of your sermon does NOT count as a hands-on illustration), to help me remember what you spent so much time talking about. Words are too often forgettable; hands-on illustrations are easily remembered. And make sure your content is worth hearing. If you spent little time preparing your message, pleeze spare us, give us your pithy points in 10 minutes, and let us out early. Or extend the music/worship time so we can actively reflect on Him. Don’t repeat your points over and over and waste our time, to cover your lack of preparation and just fulfill a preset schedule. Pleeze pleeze pleeze…….

  54. Dennis Irwin says

    My sermons are typically twenty to twenty-five minutes. We are struggling because we are a small rural church that is growing, and we cannot put everything into the service that we want. I drew the line at fifteen minutes because that is just not long enough to present a well developed sermon. The goal is not to do a thorough exposition but to give a balanced sermon that everyone from the person attending for the first time to members who have been attending for fifty years. I see the the sermon as a way to open up the conversation to be continued in other more appropriate situations. I am a Methodist pastor so I see the small group as the main means of faith formation. I have preached more that a few well developed expositions of scripture and know by looking out at the church that some people are not getting it. In the sermon format there is no opportunity to stop and let people ask questions, our for the pastor to ask questions and have them answered. Sometimes our well crafted expositions leave the new person thinking that there is no way that they could fit into the church where everyone seems to understand what is being said.

  55. Rob Mongeau says

    This will never be solved Lawrence got it right it depends on your view on the importance you put on the sermon in the worship service, climax or just a component of it. Loved to see it by denomination and so on as Lawrence proposed.

  56. Benjamin R. Owen says

    I once heard a 45 minute sermon that seemed like a 45 minute sermon. The first 15 minutes seemed like 30 minutes, and the last 30 minutes seemed like 15 minutes. The proper length depends of the subject, the preacher, the audience, and the situation.

  57. KStock says

    I think it’s important to avoid the “one size fits all” mentality.

    I’m sure I’m not the only person to have had the experience of finding a 5-minute sermon too long, and a 1-hour sermon too short, depending on the quality of the presentation.

    Addressing primarily Christians (or at least people who are familiar with the Bible) my sermons are typically 25 to 30 minutes. I think that allows a reasonable depth of development of the material, but without losing people. However, for a service where we expect more visitors – non Christians, not accustomed to church – I avoid going beyond 10 minutes. In this case, I’m limiting myself to one key point that people can take away with us.

  58. says

    I would be among the 9% who believe the sermon length should be dictated by the material and the Holy Spirit. I am a 20-28 minute preacher typically but have preached sermons in 15 minutes when it seemed right. If the material is good and the preacher engaging, length is not that much of an issue.

  59. Preston Creech says

    If # 2 is valid and I have no reason to say it is not, however, if it is; then I am wondering ,WHY is there so much controversy over style and type of music in worship service. This one part of worship seems to divide so many congregations. Or how about a sermon that takes only one or two verses and use the whole 20- 30 minutes to develop the message. Takes some research and creative thought.

  60. says

    I’ve been splitting my sermon in half, divided by the announcements and offering, for a couple of decades. it allows me to preach longer and yet in shorter segments. Like, “now a word from the sponsor.” it offers us the best of both worlds. We haven’t found a downside to it yet. Other than more work for the preacher because of the need for two introductions and two conclusions.

  61. Daniel says

    Hi there,

    I am a German, Missionary in Ecuador, married to an American lady and have served in the Micronesian islands as a missionary. I find it interesting that the main idea is that sermons have to have a certain length. In all the 4 countries I have worked in so far it is between 20-50 Minutes. Almost everyone says that it should not be longer that an hour and not shorter that 20 minutes.
    I remember my Hermeneutics professor say: “No mater if the church is used to 20 minutes or 60, you as a preacher make sure that you give them something that is not boring and something that bring them closer to God!” Now I myself am a Hermeneutics teacher here in Ecuador and I give the sam advice.
    If one has 20 minutes, he has to work harder to put the same message that he would preach in 50 minutes into 20. This means concentrate more on the important stuff. If he has 50 minutes, he has more room to invite the listeners to the journey getting to know God a little bit more deeper.
    Lets make it a focus not to focus on time but con content!People need to be brought closer to God and there in his presence get their lives straight with his help.

  62. says

    I come from a liturgical denomination where the tradition has been a 20 minute sermon. Over the years I have heard many comments that sermons need to be shorter because of attention span, the expectation of a 1 hour service, etc. The first time I attended a non-denominational church on vacation and the sermon went 45 minutes I wondered why people in our denomination were complaining about a 20 minute sermon. I attended a church last weekend on vacation and the sermon was 10 minutes long. After the service, my wife asked, “Did he say anything?” The longer I have been in ministry (35 years to date), the more my preaching evolved from about 15 minutes to around 25 minutes. It happened because I learned how to develop the sermon to feed those needing meat to chew on and those needing milk because they can’t handle meat yet. I learned that you need one central point that people can remember. You need a change in ingredients, timing, etc. because in our society today the camera angle changes every 8 seconds or so. I use a mix of stories, videos, Bible verses and quotes to make the one point of the text. I am definitely not the expert, but the people of my congregation tell me that I am helping them grow in their relationship with Jesus.

  63. says

    I find myself-to my shame, admittedly-shifting and glancing at my watch as certain sermons draw to a close. In my opinion, that is in most cases not the fault of the preacher but rather the blame lies within myself.
    Preachers can and certainly have been boring. Some are long-winded. But when a true child of God hears a sermon, his thought should not be, “this sermon is so long,” but rather, “what can I learn from God’s word?” I love the feeling I get sometimes when a sermon closes and I open my eyes after the “amen,” look at my watch, and realize with astonishment that my Pastor just went over by a good bit his allotted time. I didn’t even notice! I was so keyed in on his exposition of God’s word that time was of no consequence to me.
    Satan so easily distracts us with Sunday afternoon lunch and ball games that when when our attention back to the preacher after thinking about pot roast, we realize that suddenly we’re really hungry-and not for spiritual food but for pot roast. And hungry people are, understandably, justified when their growling stomachs distract them from the message.
    We need to be in such love with God’s word that time is of no importance!

    Understandably, this was from a listener’s viewpoint. Preachers need to be careful that if they go over the 30 or 45 minutes that what they are presenting is truly something of such great importance that it needs to go over 30 or 45 minutes, or something that couldn’t have been said in 30 minutes.

  64. Dustin Brown says

    Let’s all be honest. Length hinges on the preacher and his sermon. If the preacher is delivering it well and has the content most will continue to listen. When his delivery drops and his content is done people turn him off this is why chasing rabbits loses people, they take your rambling as a lack of true content in the sermon.

  65. says

    The truth is, sometimes the text and the Holy Spirit dictates that it must be longer while others dictate it should be shorter. My preaching has a wide variety in the time delivered (20-75 minutes) and no one ever really seems bothered by either extreme. In general, when I know topics require a large amount of information, I present it as a series and break it up by subtopic or subpoints. Also, I usually aim for an outline that would appear to take 35-45 minutes. But, because I combine topical and expository preaching, sometimes the passages that teach on particular topics require longer to develop, especially if cultural, historical, or textual context is needed to get the intended point(s) across. If you look in the Bible at the preaching patterns of Jesus and the apostles, sometimes only a few verses worth are necessary to get the point across while other times hours may have passed before the sermon was over. Ultimately, the only audience a preacher should ever seek to please is God Himself.

    • Jon Nicolet says

      My thought has always been that if the Holy Spirit is inspiring the preacher to preach long the Holy Spirit will also inspire the congregation to listen long.

  66. Waddell Hudson says

    Good stuff, I’m going to share it with some of my colleagues that think a 50-55 minute sermon is par for the course. I strongly disagree! (Pastors get a pass on time, but they too should be considerate of others time. I tried to be during my 31 years as Senior pastor.

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