500 Words on Pastoral Timing

Hey Pastor, can I intrude into your ministry for a minute?

Timing is crucial. It could even be said that timing is everything.

I don’t plan on using much of yours. But since you’ve made it this far with me, let me give you 500 words on timing.

This concerns the timing of your Sunday sermon and the whole service. Granted, every local church has different expectations regarding the length of your sermon and worship service.

However, I encourage you to think reflectively about who you’re trying to reach and the long-term mission of the church.

Here’s what I’ve observed over many years.

1) Some of us preach until we sense the congregation is done listening.

That’s not wise.

Even the most seasoned saints will tune us out if we don’t learn to communicate with efficiency.

2) Sometimes, we prolong the worship service until they want no more.

That’s not wise.

Remember, the not-yet committed who leave exasperated and exhausted will think twice about returning. And they are important to you and me because we’ve been praying for them and fishing for their souls.

The better option is to stop preaching while they’re still listening. End the service when they could go longer.

They’ll keep returning to the table if you leave them wanting more.

Also, an overdone sermon can preach them under conviction and back out while you’re still circling the parking lot. Park that sermon and invite the people to respond in prayer.

The Holy Spirit can use an imperfect shorter sermon from a less-than-perfect messenger more than you can imagine. There’s no sin in leaving something unsaid. It’s in your notes for the next revision of that sermon.

How we approach preaching says a lot about us and our personal theology. But, at the end of the day, we must confess that our spoken ministry is not about pleasing ourselves or stroking our ego.

The goal of preaching is not to make me look good, smart, or anointed.

Longer or louder is not equal to more power or more anointing. And neither is quiet and short. So whatever you do, don’t act like you have no control over your teaching and preaching, and blame that on the Holy Spirit.

Remember what the Holy Spirit has told us. “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:32-33).

I wish this wasn’t true. But it is. We can confuse people by saying too much.

The Spirit also said through the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2, “My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (4-5).

Say this aloud with me: “My preaching is not about me.”

You may now return to your regular ministry schedule.

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