7. The proclamation, explanation, and application of scriptural truths for a reasonable and appropriate length of time must be our constant practice.
1) The reasonableness and appropriateness of the length of time is acknowledged to be conditioned by some of the dynamics of the pulpit.
However, as a general rule the major factors which the regulate the length of time we preach are the disciplines of the study rather than the dynamics of the pulpit.
2) Conditioning factors
a) There are no fixed time limits to all preachers in all circumstances.
C. H. Spurgeon, “Attention” in Lectures to My Students, Book I, (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1990) p. 144.
b) There are no fixed time limits for any one preacher at all times and circumstances.
c) If you have agreed to a certain time limit, it is unethical not to keep to it.
a. Factors involved in determining the reasonable and appropriate length of time for any given sermon
1) Factors present in the preacher
a) The measure of His gift to hold attention.
Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972), pp. 241-242.
b) The measure of His growth as a preacher.
C. H. Spurgeon, “Attention” in Lectures to My Students, Book I, (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1990) p. 145.
c) The measure of His physical and mental strength.
2) Factors present in the hearers
a) Whom are you addressing?
C. H. Spurgeon, “Attention” in Lectures to My Students, Book I, (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1990) pp. 144-145.
b) What is the general spiritual climate of those whom we are addressing?
c) What is your relationship to the people at this particular point in time?
C. H. Spurgeon, “Attention” in Lectures to My Students, Book I, (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1990) pp. 145-146.
d) What are the physical and natural circumstances in which I am addressing the people?
3) Factors present in the content of the sermon
John A. Broadus, On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, (Birmingham, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2005), pp. 536-537.
4) Factors relative to the presence of God
b. Practical exhortations
1) If you err, be on the side of being too brief.
2) Do not be overly sensitive to a malcontent minority of unspiritual people.
3) Do not be overly influenced by the excessive enthusiasm of a hungry but insensitive minority.
4) Master the time saving devices.
a) Limit your parallel citations of Scripture.
b) Quote or read your parallel citations without asking your people to turn to them.
c) Be prepared to omit good but secondary material.
d) Stick closely to your notes (i.e., to your content) in your exposition.
e) Have prepared summaries at each point of transition.
c. Practical problems
1) What should I do if in my intermediate or advanced preparation things start to expand beyond my original plan to an unreasonable length?
a) Reform your goals for that particular sermon.
b) Exercise the discipline of exclusion.
c) Possibly divide the sermon into two or more sermons.
d) Beg the indulgence of your people at the outset and preach a longer sermon.
2) What should I do if in the act of preaching things expand beyond what I expected?
a) Bring things to a close where you strike fire.
b) Continue if you have reasonable assurance the people are willing and able to take more.
3) Good Advice from some good old writers.
James M. Hoppin, Homiletics, (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1883), pp. 274-275.
Batsell B. Baxter, The Heart of the Yale Lectures, (New York: MacMillan Company, 1947), pp. 220-223.