Average sermon length is now over 17 minutes these days - signalling the first increase in average American sermons in 200 years - says Thomas Long, Candlerprofessor and preaching expert.
There are several reasons, says Long, one of them is that people are looking for 'useful' sermons - that take longer to unpack.
This is challenging news for preachers to be more mindful of the practicality and applicability of their sermons, in this interview, this seasoned preaching professor gives us some good advice.
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People who are coming to church less are expecting more - sermons that are practical and timely. Here are my notes from the interview:
Living Life Homiletically
Dr. Long remembers a preaching instructor who asked students carry around a notebook to pay deeper attention to their lives - the films, books, and experiences of life - that make for solid sermons.
Enlist Cultural Spies
Dr. Bandy has asked people in book clubs, movie buffs, and those who pay special attention to the culture, to be on the lookout for 'good material' for sermons. The ensuing clippings and emails he gets make for terrific fodder for sermons - which now don't just come from him, but come from the community.
Draw from Everything Around You
God uses what's around the preacher to impact the people. Realizing that your sermon is really God's sermon helps us realize that God is working through the fullness of our experiencing to touch others.
About Thomas Long
Thomas G. Long is the Bandy Professor of Preaching at Candler School of Theology at Emory University and the Coordinator of the Initiative in Religious Practices and Practical Theology. A Presbyterian minister, Dr. Long has served churches in Georgia and New Jersey. He has taught preaching for over thirty-five years - at Erskine Theological Seminary, Columbia Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, and, since 2000, at Candler.
Dr. Long has served as the president of the Academy of Homiletics and as senior homiletics editor of the New Interpreter's Bible. He has been editor of Theology Today, is currently an associate editor of Journal for Preachers,and serves as an editor-at-large at The Christian Century.. He is the author of textbooks on preaching and worship, collections of sermons, and biblical commentaries on Matthew and Hebrews. In 2011, he was awarded the Emory Williams prize for excellence in teaching by Emory University. He delivered the 2006 Lyman Beecher Lectures in Preaching at Yale Divinity School, and these have been published as Preaching from Memory to Hope. His most recent books are Accompany Them with Singing: The Christian Funeral and What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith.