It is not uncommon thing to hear a congregation sing, “Take time to be holy, the world rushes on,” then to hear them urge the preacher to cut every corner possible to shorten his sermon in order for the congregation to be out and gone by twelve o’clock. May I ask what all the rush is about? Isn’t time fleeting enough? James said, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. (Jam 4:14). I hear brethren talking about how to pass the Lord’s supper around in less time, and how we can sing two songs instead of three or four and perhaps two verses of the invitation song rather than all four verses. At the same time, “long winded” preachers are rejected in favor of “short and sweet” preachers. Why are we in such a hurry? `
It has been said that a preacher cannot hold the attention of an audience over twenty five or thirty minutes. If this is true of an audience, one or two things seems to be true, the preacher needs to spend more time with the book and less time socializing, or else, there is something wrong with the spirituality of the congregation. I know from experience that I can post a long sermon essay online and few people will read it. I can post a short summation of the same sermon and get a lot of responses. Truth is, people want to read and listen about the Word of God, but not for very long. Is life is traveling at such a fast pace that many can’t even find time for a few hours to worship God?
Perhaps preachers are bending to the will of the people as opposed to the will of God, thus feeding their congregation fables. The apostle Paul warned a young Timothy about such when he said, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim 4:3,4). I contend that they have the attention span to hear and understand the Word of God, but they desire to be fed make believe stories over God’s commandments and doctrine.
Again I ask, “Why all the cry for shorter sermons, shorter services?” Is it because we want to get out so we might rush across town to share the good news with some lost and perishing soul? Is it because there are more important tasks that must be attended to on the Lord’s day? Or, is it that we have forgotten that the first day of the week is indeed the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10)? I repeat, Sunday is the Lord’s Day, not the Lord’s hour or two! Rather than planning the services in such a manner that brethren can be about their business, it is high time that they start planning them in such a manner as to be about our Father’s business. This day belongs to the Lord, and if so, it is not ours, like the rest of the days of the week. Unlike the Sabbath of the Old Testament, it is not a day of rest but rather is a day for the work and service of the Lord, a day of worship and mutual edification. Instead of firing and brow beating godly preachers for preaching too long, the church would do well to plan the services and make it a day of edification and indoctrination of the church, a day of preaching and worshiping , a day of singing glorious praises unto the Lord (Acts 2:42,47). If then, there is time left after such worship and service, rather than spending it in the field or in the shop or plant, why not use that precious time reading the Bible, visiting and ministering to the sick, “warning the unruly,” “comforting the feeble,” “supporting the weak,” or “teaching a lost soul about Christ”?
If it’s always been a custom among churches of Christ that the services begin and 10am and let out at twelve noon. It’s high time we change our custom and give the first day of the week back to the Lord. In short, let’s stop saying, “Get to the point and hurry up” and start saying once again, “Take time to be holy”!