Lethal Blabbermouth

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Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. (Acts 20:9)

Some things never change. Even the Apostle Paul himself could fall in love with the sound of his own voice. There’s just something about the bully pulpit that brings on verbal diarrhea. As the Rolling Stones have it: “If you start me up I’ll never stop.” Unfortunately, bombast and endless loops of elucidation can cause death in the listener. Perhaps the church should take a cue from the tobacco industry:

WARNING

I visited an Anglican church recently where the sermon was ten minutes long. Afterward, as I shook hands with the preacher, I mentioned to him that I appreciated how much he covered in such a short time. He looked both ways, leaned over to me, and answered in a low voice, “An old bishop once told me, if you can’t strike oil in ten minutes, stop drilling.”

Many preachers I’ve heard don’t speak in order to make a point; they speak until they make one, and on frequent occasions even that appears optional. Most evangelical sermons these days average around 45 minutes (add ten minutes for Powerpoint). If you’re fortunate enough to get one delivered hot in thirty minutes or less, be sure to leave a tip. Come to think of it, we should require all seminary graduates to do an internship at Domino’s Pizza.

Of course, shortening up the obligatory sermon would greatly enhance Sunday mornings. Getting back even a measly 15 minutes would mean shorter lines at the restaurant after the service. Not only that, a time-limit on pontification would increase the likelihood that the congregation would actually pay attention (which, it occurs to me, could be a bad thing for some preachers). The insistence on brevity might also put pressure on the worship ministry to limit how many times they repeat choruses. Maybe more hymns would be used again which have definite numbers of verses. With a little luck, we might be able to bring the entire Sunday morning service down to, say, 20 minutes. I guarantee you that more people would be willing to be saved if Sunday services were at least a little less painful than hell.

Until our preachers can regularly raise people from the dead, letting the rest of us out early would be a fair approximation.

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