Shorter Services reply

July 11, 2011 — 1 Comment

Should we have shorter services?

Time is a complicated issue. More time does not correspond directly to more meritorious. That is making the mistake of thinking that if one is good, two must be better. But one movie is good, three at one sitting a waste of time.

Church on Sunday’s is good thing. Church every morning is not a good thing.

But time also indicates worth.We spend time on what we value. A Seinfeld fanatic will spend time watching episodes out of love for the show.

As with many issues, there is not a clear answer in Scripture regarding how long our services should be. Jesus never said that a short service will disqualify you from the kingdom, or that a long service would get you a bus pass. (however he did say that if “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”)

Therefore there is freedom here, but there is also wisdom.

A good category to have filed in ones mind is the law of unintended consequences.

The question is not whether it is right or wrong to have long or short services but rather what it will communicate and what it will do for both your congregation and your visitors.What will the unintended consequences be of shorter service?

I think they could be the following:

First, it will communicate that God speaking to us through his Word and through his servant is not as important as some of the other things to do during the day.

Second, it will communicate that we all really want this to be over with as quickly as possible.

Third, it will communicate that meeting with other believers, although necessary, is not all that enjoyable.

There are a bunch of other things I could list, but as I listed them I realized they all intersect.

In short, a shorter service could communicate a lack value in the gathering of believers and the preaching of the Word. Let’s not overcomplicate the matter by saying that it is not quantity but quality. Everyone, if they dig deep enough, realizes that time to some extent indicates value.

That is why I generally think it is wise to have longer services as opposed to shorter services. Now by longer I do not mean infinitely longer, but substantial. If they can spend an hour listening to President Obama address the nation, they can listen for an hour to a sermon. Also, enough of this nonsense about shorter attention spans. Train the people.


Regarding sermon length: It has become popular to think that the longer the sermon the “more” spiritual. After all Mark Dever, Mark Driscoll, Ryan Fullerton, and John Piper all speak for almost an hour. But these men are specially gifted by the Lord, so I don’t think we should all aspire to hour length sermons. Young preachers should probably shoot for shorter sermons at the beginning for the simple reason that they are not very good yet. If you were a Spurgeon, we would already know.

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.

One response to Shorter Services reply

  1. Matthew Thomas July 12, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    As always, great thinking, sir!

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