6 Reasons I’m Not a Fan of Longer Sermons

Okay, I admit my subjectivity here. And, I realize some (if not many) readers will disagree with me today. My concern in this post is the length of sermons—especially sermons that push toward an hour in length. I typically preach for 35-40 minutes, and I at times would like to have preached longer. Nevertheless, here’s why I struggle with sermons that are much longer:

  1. Few preachers are strong enough pulpiteers to preach well for this long. Some are, but they’re the exception. Too many young preachers think they can preach well for an hour because that’s what their heroes do—but seldom is the young preacher as good as the hero.
  2. I fear that some preachers view the length of the sermon as a sign of theological depth and academic rigor. They think they must show their prowess via preaching longer sermons than others do—and they at times view shorter sermons as automatically watered down.
  3. It seems to me that preachers should work their way up to longer sermons rather than start there. That is, we earn the privilege to preach longer by first learning to preach well in shorter sermons. I put it this way for my students: “If you can’t do it well in 30 minutes first, you’re not likely to do it well in 60.”
  4. Few people are accustomed to listening to someone speak for nearly an hour. Our culture is a sitcom culture that seeks instant satisfaction (that is, we listen in short segments, with commercial breaks in between to grab a snack and use the restroom)—and preachers must at least be aware of that reality. Again, those who preach longer sermons in this culture need to be gifted expositors and proclaimers of God’s Word.
  5. Many longer sermons are longer simply because they’re disorganized and rambling. It takes a lot longer to wander from and around a central truth than it does to simply expound and apply that truth. That reality, stated in a differing way, is the sermon without a clear direction and outline can move in so many directions that it takes more time to cover the territory.
  6. Pastors need to consider nursery and children’s workers serving during the worship service. I happily serve in our toddlers’ department at our church, but I’m always reminded to think about these workers the next time I’m privileged to preach to our congregation. I don’t mind preaching a shorter sermon in order to be sensitive to faithful (and sometimes weary) children’s volunteers.

Okay, let me hear your thoughts.  


  • Robin Jordan says:

    I preach to an aging congregation whose members are likely to fall asleep or otherwise visibly show loss of interest if I or one of the other preachers goes beyond 15 minutes or less. Twice a month we have a visiting pastor whose sermons are unnecessarily long, typically marred by false starts. digressions, and extraneous remarks. He’ll drag out the sermon well beyond what he needed to say to get his point across to the congregation. Often his sermons are just filler with what should be the main focus of his sermon tacked on the end. Setting a time limit on a sermon I believe forces the preacher to sharpen his focus and concentrate on what is most important. I have given up preaching with notes for that reason.

  • Randy Billingsley says:

    People do struggle with attention span, but even more so with retention. I would much rather spend 20-25 minutes on one or two points that stand out than I would 45 minutes to an hour on seven points than probably no one can remember.

  • Chris Hearn says:

    Good post. In particular #5 resonates with me. Not just for sermons but for various types of speaking too. People ramble and use filler without giving any substance. It’s too bad because it can take a great 25-30 minute message and turn it into a boring 45 minute one.

  • Kevin says:

    Point 4 is so true. The main reason to preach is for the preacher to preach and hearer to hear. Paul talk about this ” To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.” To win Americans is to preach what there attention span can do.

  • David Frasure says:

    Excellent thoughts even though it will be difficult for some (including me at times) to apply. Every missionary knows to make adjustments in methods to reach their culture. We live in a culture shaped by the Sesame Street attention span. I can still remember reading Spurgeon telling preachers not to make their morning worship prayers over 20 minutes long and try to hold it to 10 minutes. If I prayed for 20 minutes in today’s morning worship service, I’m pretty sure I would lose some of my audience before the first song started. Thanks Dr. Lawless.

  • Mark says:

    Frequently, one well-made point in a 12-minute homily is far better than a 35 minute-long, drawn-out sermon. It is different if you are lecturing on a topic with slides and examples.

  • Paul Aiello says:

    My old seminary professor used to say, “if you don’t strike oil in the first five minutes, stop boring.“

  • Jerry says:

    Chuck, I know I am a late comer to this post, but I’ve been out of town for the past week. Obviously, you have struck a chord with many as the 8 comments before me all advocate for short sermons. Honestly, I am not a fan of a hour “plus” sermon because your #1 is right on point.
    I have heard all of the cliches of days past; “shorter attention span”, “the ear to rear impact”, etc. On the other side of the coin, “Sermonettes grow Christianettes”…etc.

    I push back against both positions:

    TOO LONG?? – as preacher in a type of itinerant model (DOM) – Honestly, I don’t buy it because we have no problem (Young and old alike) of sitting for a couple of hours for our favorite football team. OUCH. So it’s not really a matter of time, it’s more likely a matter of taste. Taking 35-45 minutes to unpack the wonders found in the Bible is something to be done we prayer and care & (if you have done your prayer work & study work) should not be too long.
    TOO SHORT ?? – I know that the modern day mantra is ‘no one gripes about a short message’, and once again,I sense this is more about taste than time.
    For me this is the issue, BE WELL PREPARED to DELIVER HIS MESSAGE FOR THE DAY. If it takes 5 minutes or 45 minutes, complete the message God has given you for the day. It’s kind of a “Stand Up, Speak Up, and Shut up” time of thought. As was on one pulpit where I preached, “Sir, We Would See Jesus.”

  • Randy Gore says:

    It’s harder for a preacher to cut down his sermon to 30 minutes or less (it’s a matter of better preparation and practice). It’s harder for the listeners to keep listening after 30 minutes (and that ability depletes rapidly with each following minute).

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.