Lord, Deliver Us from Word Congestion: A Call for More Precise Sermons
"Let thy words be few" (Ecclesiastes 5:2).
We preachers know how to "multiply words without end."
It’s our occupation, and it’s an occupational hazard.
They call on us for a few words and half an hour later, they wish we would sit down and shut up.
When one preacher asked why his hosts had not called on him to say grace throughout the entire week they’d been together, the man replied, “Because we want to eat tonight!” (I was there and I heard it.)
“Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him… Yet the fool multiplies words” (Ecclesiastes 10:12-13)
We fill the silence with words, fill the air with our thoughts, try the patience of everyone around us with our wordiness. Long prayers, wordy introductions, repetitive announcements, the list is unending.
I’m in a different church almost every week. The announcements will often sound like this: “The women of the church will be meeting Tuesday night in fellowship hall to discuss missions in China. That’s Tuesday night, right? In fellowship hall. I sure hope they bring those delicious cheese straws, the way they did last time. I think Mildred Phillips made those, right Mrs. Phillips? Anytime you want to make me a serving of them, you know my address. Heh heh. Okay. So, the women are meeting Tuesday night in fellowship hall.”
Lord, deliver us. What is wrong with such a preacher to purposely get on the nerves of everyone like this!
Aw, we know. I’m a preacher. I know all too well.
The wordy preacher likes the attention. He enjoys the spotlight. He loves the sound of his own voice.
Lord, deliver us.
Wordy preachers multiply words in sermons for lack of thorough preparation.
If I do not prepare for telling a story I’ve heard or read, it may take me five minutes to relate it. But if I plan it ahead of time and rehearse it, I can do it in half the time.
We preachers sometimes think people need a sermon of so many minutes. A half hour, maybe. Or an hour in some places. The times we have fudged and turned in a message of half the expected duration, the criticism of a few has wafted its way up to us. "For this, I drove all the way across town?" "I don't come to church for a 15-minute sermon."
We foolishly take those criticisms to heart, and make sure we never again speak briefly.
In funerals, we anesthesize the pain of the mourners with our soothing words that lull them to sleep. After 45 minutes of our droning, they are ready to lower the loved one into the grave if it will mean putting a stop to this.
The old joke has someone saying to the pastor, "Just because your message is timeless, it doesn't have to be endless."
We pad our sermons with words. When my church gave me six weeks to visit other congregations and learn from them, on two occasions I worshiped with mega-churches where the pastors were media-stars. in both cases, the men of the Lord preached 45 minute sermons with 25 minute messages. That is, each sermon could easily have been over in 25 minutes, but they had a larger slot to fill, which they did with unnecessary words. Filler, is what the newspapers call it. Multiplying words.
This is not a call for 10-minute sermons, but rather for thorough preparation.
Wordiness. You know what it is.
So, let me practice what I’m preaching and end this here. (You’re welcome!)
Publication date: November 8, 2017
Joe McKeever has been a disciple of Jesus Christ more than 65 years, been preaching the gospel more than 55 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian publications more than 45 years. He blogs at www.joemckeever.com.