How Long Should A Preacher Preach?

How Long Should A Preacher Preach? Bible Question.

Question:

“Our preacher preaches a long sermons (about 75 minutes). He says he needs the time to say all that needs to be said. He is a good speaker, but I think he loses most of his audience. How long should a preacher preach?”

Answer:

The Scripture gives no rules for sermon length, which makes the whole issue a matter of opinion. The Bible does record several sermons, none of which would take more than a few minutes to read out loud. Stephen preaches through almost the entire seventh chapter of Acts. But, if you read the text aloud to an audience it would require only a few minutes. Even Jesus’ sermon on the mount can be spoken in less than twenty minutes.

On the other hand, we are told of sermons that took much longer. Peter’s sermon on Pentecost takes only a few minutes to read aloud, but the Bible tells us . . .

And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” – Acts 2:40 (New American Standard Bible)

Peter’s recorded sermon is brief, but he preached much longer that those few minutes. Paul preached to the church at Troas. We are not sure when the assembly gathered for worship, but we do know . . .

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together. And there was a young man namedEutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead. But Paul went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, “Do not be troubled, for his life is in him.” When he had gone back up and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while until daybreak, and then left. They took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted.” – Acts 20:7 – 12

Which brings us to the point of preaching in the first place. Preaching is not about making points or covering all the facts in a given topic. It is about teaching people truth and connecting the Word of God with their lives. As Paul said to the Corinthians about their worship. . .

What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. – 1 Corinthians 14:26

The point of a song, a prayer or a sermon is to spiritually strengthen and build people up in the assembly. A speaker who goes too long will soon stop edifying anyone. How long is “too long”? It’s subjective. Ultimately, all of this is a judgment call. The preacher is to be sensitive to what God wants him to communicate as well as the needs and consideration of his audience.

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Can The Church Hire A Secretary?

Can the church hire a secretary? Bible Question.

Question:

“I have been a church secretary for many years. But some of the men here object to the Lord’s money being used to pay a woman, that it gives her too much control. They also think the elders should find some other way to get the work done. I want to do what’s right, so is it right for me to be the secretary?”

Answer:

The apostle Paul had an “amanuensis“, which simply means he had someone to do his writing for him (Romans 16:22; Galatians 6:11; etc.). It just doesn’t make good sense to “hire a preacher” and then have him spend most of his time doing “secretarial work”. He should be free to study, prepare lessons, visit the members and reach the lost.

Most congregations find it expedient to hire a secretary (or an administrative assistant) to prepare paperwork, write letters, administer websites/social media, answer the phones, maintain church records, manage inventory for various church departments, keep up with members’ needs, etc. If it was good for Paul to have a secretary, it usually makes sense for a preacher today to have one.

I seriously doubt that there will ever come a time when every member of a congregation agrees with the elders’ decisions as to how to spend “the Lord’s money”. But someone must make the decision as to how the money is spent, and the Lord has designated the elders to be the “overseers” of the church (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1 – 3).

It is certainly scriptural for the church to hire a secretary. And if the elders decide it is expedient to do so, it is their right to make that decision. The admonition then is given to the members of that congregation . . .

“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” Hebrews 13:17 (New International Version)

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The Preacher’s Work

The Preacher’s Work. Bible Question.

Question:

“Would you please set forth the guidelines in the Bible for the responsibilities of the preacher? Our preacher here says he is to preach and that visiting people in the hospital or their homes is the work of the elders and deacons.”

Answer:

Recently I have received four questions related to the leadership of the local church. I will answer them this week and next. Related posts on this subject can be found under “Church Leaders” and “Preaching” in the subject index (in the right column).

In regards to this question, the primary work of the preacher is to preach the word:

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction – 2 Timothy 4:1, 2 (New American Standard Bible)

There are other passages that show what is involved in being a preacher. The apostle Paul wrote letters to two preachers, Timothy (two letters) and Titus. One of his purposes was to instruct and exhort them in their work as ministers of the word. For instance, in 1 Timothy 4:12 . . .

Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.

There are many duties of Christians which Timothy and Titus are told to preach/teach. And with regards to all of them, this principle applies: be an example. In other words, when a minister preaches that members are to visit and encourage others, he must lead the way by first doing what he is preaching.

The apostle Peter tells us,

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps . . .” – 2 Peter 2:21

Let us look at how Jesus lived while on this earth. He came “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). “To seek” involves some visiting. The Lord also ministered to the needs of those with whom He came in contact: the sick, the hungry, the discouraged, the weak, the vulnerable, sinners, etc. Notice how He describes what it means to minister in Matthew 25:35, 36 . . .

For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’

One who is striving to follow in His steps will do as Jesus did.

Some preachers contend that their “job” is to preach, and that they only do other types of service as any Christian would. And, in a sense this is true. But, looking in the Scriptures for a “job description” of a preacher, I am forced to conclude that he is to be, first, a Christian. And that whatever he preaches to others, he must first obey

If he teaches that members are to give liberally, he must first do so. If he teaches that members are to visit the sick, he must first visit the sick. If he teaches that people are to seek the lost by reaching out to those in sin, he must first do so. It is hypocrisy for one to preach that others are to do these works while he refuses to do them.

The first duty of a preacher is to preach. That work demands time, effort, education and prayer to prepare lessons and effectively deliver them. I know some members would insist that the preacher spend forty hours or more a week doing “Christian service” work: visiting, encouraging, comforting, etc. But it should be obvious that to do so would mean that his primary work (preaching) would suffer. We can’t expect the preacher to do everything!

A preacher must set some priorities for his time. Wise and godly elders will insist that he will take the necessary time to prepare and do an effective job in his primary work – preaching the word. His “job” involves more than just standing before the church on Sundays and Wednesdays and bringing a lesson from the Bible.

He also must set an example for the other members. As I alluded to a moment ago, the fact that preachers are to do many kinds of work as a Christian does not absolve elders and deacons and other members from doing these works (their responsibilities) as well. In some congregations, the members hire a preacher to come and do their Christian work for them. This is wrong.

In other congregations, the preacher declares his job is to “preach only” and he refuses to do the Christian service that he demands of others. This is also wrong. Those preachers that are worthy to be called ministers of Christ will set the example in all areas of Christian service – as will the elders, deacons and all the other faithful Christians in that congregation.

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