Shorter Services?

July 10, 2011 — 3 Comments

From Todd Rhoades:

OK… so the Bishop of Lichfield told a group of pastors in London last week that church services have become too long, and that they should aim to keep the time of the service to no more than 50 minutes.

Stop singing so long.  Stop praying so long.  Stop preaching so long.

This article also says that some services in the UK last up to 2 hours.

Another argument:  people’s attention spans aren’t what they used to be.

Actually… I think the Bishop is on to something here.

I wrote a post about a year ago asking the question about why no church that I know of has begun offering a half hour service.

We’ve done everything else… hip music, flashy lights, relevant messages, free coffee and donuts.  But never have we offered to budge, even a little, on our set hour format.

Would more people come if we offered an ‘express’ type service?  Yeah… actually, I think if you had three services, two of them being an hour and one being 30 minutes, I bet the 30 minutes one would be pretty dang popular.

“But that’s because people are shallow”.

No.  That’s because pastors have not ever looked at doing things differently.

Let’s face it… pastors are paid and expected to speak 30-40 minutes each Sunday.  But can we be honest?  Most of that 30-40 minutes with most pastors contains A LOT of fluff.

My experience with The NINES has taught me a lot.  You absolutely can deliver a compelling point in nine minutes.  It’s clear, concise, and brief.  But it sticks with you.

I think a powerful worship service could be packaged into 30 minutes.

So… heads bowed and eyes closed.  Who will be the first pastor to try this?  Who will be the first one to give up his 30-40 minute sermon for a 9 minute one?

Anyone? Anywhere?

I’m not afraid to sing all 329 verses of Just as I am.  Been there, done that.

I’m totally serious.  This would work.  In fact, I bet it would get you on FoxNews or CNN.

OK… would love to hear your thoughts.  Am I totally off my rocker to think a substantial, worshipful, God-honoring service could be packaged in 30 minutes?  And am I totally insane to think that people actually would like this format?

Why or why not?


HT: Scot McKnight

My comments later (but really if you know me you can guess what I am going to say)

Patrick Schreiner

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I teach New Testament at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. I am married with three children. This blog, against all wisdom, includes anything I am interested in. That includes movies, music, theology, culture, hermeneutics, the Gospels, and politics. Feel free to comment and let me know you are reading or that you have found something helpful. I reserve the right to delete unhelpful or rude comments. Many of these posts are simply things I find interesting and therefore I am not asserting I agree with everything I link to.

3 responses to Shorter Services?

  1. Hmm. One thing I’ve noticed at my church is that the longer the service lasts, the greater the probability someone will provide free alcohol. I bet you’d get more people to a 3 hour service than a 30 minute one if you provided the booze.

  2. Honestly, is Todd serious? Honestly. Just one thing to say in response, — I am sure that many would like to have shorter services, 30 minute services, but I would say of such that they are in danger of being identified as those of little to no saving grace. When you begin to ask the questions or think the thoughts that Todd has presented, you have moved away from the blazing center of the gospel. God saves sinners so that they will glorify Him by treasuring Jesus Christ, treasuring being the imperative word. If a person takes an ill disposition towards the corporate worship service of a local church that takes them 2 minutes beyond the noon hour, I would beg of them the answer to one question, — what do you think heaven is going to be about? and those employments of worship forever, without end, eternally increasing in love and joy and praise of God and the Lamb, — so, if these are the things that we have come to, if these are the questions and the posts that we have come to, we have wandered away from the saving love of the Father, the warmth of the Son, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and the hope of glory kept for us, incorruptible, undefiled, imperishable, the thought and sight of which only produces an inexpressible joy full of glory. Yeah, by God’s grace it is my delight to basque in the foretastes of His glory in, say, sermons specifically or corporate worship more generally, and thus the issue for me and, dare I say all Christians, should not be “how quickly can I get through a service and still feel like I’ve had some meaningful encounter with God,” but as David pleads in Ps 42.2, “When shall I come and appear before God,” or in Ps 27.4, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” In other words, to even be asking the sort of things being asked here, one has lost his way, one has moved away from the only totally satisfying Being, the most lovable, enjoyable, delightful Being, i.e. God. One has moved away from the gospel wherein the great goal of God is the sinners being reconciled to God through Christ. If I would not say to my wife whom I love, “How quickly can we get this over and still be on conjugal terms,” then I would not conceive of the like with God who commands us to delight ourselves in Him (cf. Ps 37.4). May the Lord give abundant grace in causing the hearts of His adopted children to find Him more desirable and worthy of true worship than mid-week, about nothing, afternoon sitcom.

  3. Patrick Schreiner July 11, 2011 at 3:47 pm


    I generally agree, but I would not make this a salvation issue.

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