When a brother has all the good virtues of preaching except brevity, could he not, with a little more study and effort, add this virtue as well? The everlasting gospel would not be preached everlastingly, and though the truth is eternal, the sermon should not be. As one said to a certain open-air preacher, “I say, fellow, cut it short!” A man must be able to give his message in a great economy of words. Certain brethren would preach better if they would not preach as long. Say what one has to say and when done, quit! Do not ruin the good by following it with mind-numbing length. Stop the wheel when the wheat is ground. It is cruel to make your hearers hope that you are about to finish, and then to keep going. It is dreadful when a preacher says, “To conclude”, and then “finally” and then “lastly” and then “finally and lastly” and then “another blessed thought!” His hearers are likely to have thoughts that are not blessed, and will agree with the American who said of one preacher, “Oh, that the man would quit!”
– C. H. Spurgeon
It is the rare man who can preach for up to an hour in his sermon with real benefit to his hearers without wearing his hearers out. If most of us do this, we are unwise, without even realizing it. We cannot preach that long, as a rule, simply because Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, John MacArthur, or Paul Washer can preach that long with great blessing. We are not those men, nor do most of us have their gifting. Let us learn to preach better by preaching shorter sermons.
In our day of abundant technology and the attention span of most people much more limited, we must face the sad fact that most people have a shorter attention span, and simply cannot profit from a sermon that extends much beyond 40 minutes; we may be enjoying preaching, but we will not realize that the people have ceased to benefit from the sermon because we have lost their attention. We will benefit the majority of our hearers if we will preach shorter messages and this will also improve the very sermon itself. If we are honest, we have much inert material in some of our sermons which is redundancy and repetition that could be eliminated and it would greatly improve our message. Let us be wise and honest about about these matters in preaching and it will truly make us better preachers and people will hear us more gladly, as well as benefit much more from our labors.
– Mack Tomlinson