Skill Builders

Home > Skill Builders

A Case for Shorter Sermons

As a preacher I have to remind myself that brevity can be as effective as it is beautiful.

See theme

The most celebrated speech in American history was less than three minutes. Lincoln's address at Gettysburg was only 269 words, but it captured the history, pain, and aspirations of the nation with soaring eloquence and inspiring imagery.

Many forget that Lincoln's speech was not the keynote at the ceremony that day. The featured speaker was Edward Everett, a celebrity orator. His address at Gettysburg was 13,607 words, over two hours long—not unheard of for a gifted speaker in the nineteenth century. After the event Everett wrote to the President saying, "I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes."

As a preacher I have to remind myself that brevity can be as effective as it is beautiful. I don't believe every sermon should be as brief as the Gettysburg Address, but most of mine would benefit from a nip and a tuck. Lincoln's famous speech makes me wonder if I might accomplish more by speaking ...

skill builder Preview

This skill builder is available to members only.

To continue reading:

Rating & Reviews

Average User Rating: Not rated

Displaying 1–5 of 6 comments

charles ostlie

May 14, 2014  3:19pm

The other option is doing a better job of being precise in those 30 minutes. I am always amazed how we can sit for many hours or days in a seminar or a personal conversation or watch hours of television. For many, that is the only half hour during the week that they get to hear teaching from the Bible. Perhaps we should shorten some of the worship songs (especially those that repeat and repeat) and announcements, etc. I doubt that most of Jesus' teaching was only 15 minutes.

Report Abuse

Dan DeGroat

May 14, 2014  8:28am

Short sermons do not = short prep time. Try it and you'll see. It's not about shorter sermons; it's about saying more with fewer words. THAT takes preparation.

Report Abuse

chris williams

May 13, 2014  12:04am

Great article. I believe brevity not only helps the audience leave with something to remember, but it more genuinely treats the sermon according to its shaping power in the life of the congregation. If the mission of the church is to make disciples who love God and love others, a sermon plays little formational influence to this end. Formation most happens in the discipleship relationships of the church. Pastors need to put less onus on preaching (30hours of prep?, yikes!) and more on discipling relationships. We need to cut down on sermon prep and start living what we preach with our people and with our neighbors.

Report Abuse

Harry Shields

May 12, 2014  1:59pm

After retiring from full-time pastoral ministry over a year ago, I am convinced Mr. Jethani is absolutely correct. Let's keep reminding ourselves that the goal of preaching is NOT the accumulation of knowledge, but inspiring congregants to serve King Jesus in all that they do.

Report Abuse

David Benedict

May 12, 2014  10:03am

Thoughtful and true. Though it's tough to be direct and to the point, it can be very effective, if creatively done. The preparation time for any sermon, however, probably should not be brief. Thanks, Mr. Jethani.

Report Abuse

Please to rate and review this skill builder. Or subscribe now for full access.

Related articles

The Playful Preacher

Using humor and irony

Interesting Preaching

How to avoid talking in someone else's sleep

Critique of the New Homiletic

Examining the link between the New Homiletic and the New Hermeneutic
Print this pageHelpMy Account