The one-hour service is "where the rubber meets the road" in our commitment to reach the lost.
Conducting a one-hour service is not easy (like most things worth doing). It will require psychological and practical daring.
Ephesians 5:16 reminds us to "redeem the time" because the days are evil. In a public worship service, we are tempted to think that our primary medium is words; it’s not. Our medium is time.
While there is no God-ordained length for a time of public worship, there is a sensitivity dictated by 1 Corinthians 9:21: "To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." In our "microwave" culture, events that go longer than an hour – like school commencement ceremonies – are increasingly frowned upon.
For some Christian leaders, an hour-long service can be viewed as too short, if not restrictive. For the people we are trying to reach, however, an hour may seem long, if not excessive. After all, look at what happens in modern culture in an hour or less:
An ancient proverb states, "The mind can absorb only what the seat can endure." For many unchurched people, the church stands for every commandment except this law of common sense. Childhood memories of boredom flood back to them with just the mention of the word "church." The one-hour service is "where the rubber meets the road" in our commitment to reach the lost. If your church will consistently deliver on the promise of a one-hour service, you will equip your "bringers and includers" with an important counter to one of Satan’s greatest allies: busyness.
Imagine for a moment that you are not a Christian. You have been invited to church, but you don’t know if you want to go or not. You begin putting up objections: "I don’t have anything to wear...I think my kids have a soccer game on Sunday..." Your friend insists that you can come as you are and that the services only last one hour. So you walk through the door on a Sunday morning a few minutes late, but the service is already underway. Though you do not know any of the songs, the musical portion of the service is well-paced. The teaching begins without delay and is relevant, Bible-based and interesting. Before you know it, the teaching is brought to a conclusion, as is the service. You walk out pleasantly surprised, ready for a second dose. Later, when your friends or family ask you about your experience, you cite your surprise that you were "out of there in less than an hour."
A mantra for intentional leaders is, "Start on time, end on time, do the right things in between." This is a challenge at every level of convention, from the small group to the worship service, but the local pastor has a disproportionately important role in modeling this behavior publicly. If the Sunday service proceeds without time-boundaries, it sets a tone for the entire ministry that says, "Time is not of the essence." If a service that is supposed to start at 10:00 AM routinely starts at 10:10, what time do you think a 1:00 PM staff meeting or 7:00 PM small group will begin? The cumulative effect of Sunday’s sluggishness is hundreds of wasted hours in your ministries each week.
Conducting a one-hour service is not easy (like most things worth doing). It will require psychological and practical daring. The pastor may need to send out a note to everyone involved in the worship service that "we are going to make starting and ending on time a point of emphasis, beginning this Sunday." He may need to apologize publicly for services running overtime. He may need to trim his teaching notes from eight pages to five. He may need to specify a time-frame to the worship team. Five minutes prior to the service, he may need to say to the worship team leader, "I’d like to get started in a couple minutes." Three minutes prior to the service, he may need to ask, "Ready to go?" He may need to bring conclusion to a delinquent pre-service prayer time. He may need to put a clock in the worship center, so that everyone is on the same page. He may need to "cut in" on the worship team when they go long. He may have to forego one of his points in order to finish on time. He may need to say "No" to certain public announcements that people want to make. He may need to have lights in the auditorium that signal transitions in the service. He may need to have an uncomfortable conversation with a worship leader about the length of prayers. He may need to keep a "score card" of the number of weeks each month where services ended within the hour time-frame. In any case, the power to act is never released until the decision is made.
What does a one-hour service look like? A 10:00 AM worship service may flow like this:
This needs to begin well in advance, so as to not “bleed” into the start of the service.
Welcome & Opening Prayer
This should be direct and brief.
Program either a four-song set with longer anthems or a five-song set with smaller choruses. It will be important to limit conversation between songs.
The 20-minute mark is an important one to hit in order to assure a one-hour service.
If you take a "fellowship break" during the service, allow more time here.
Teachers should shoot for a 25-minute message with a very brief introduction, i.e. "It’s good to be with you ..." etc.
The 50-minute mark is an important one to hit in order to assure a one-hour service.
Q&A & Announcements
There should only be one or two priority announcements. Other items may be listed in the program.
Closing Song & Offering
Consider asking people to stand after collection has passed them
Use one sentence and resume music immediately following.
Activity expands to fill the available time. If your services routinely run longer than an hour, there are probably good things happening to fill that time. But the secret of concentration is elimination. Something(s) will have to go. To bring a service within a one-hour boundary, you must deal with both service-related and teaching-related time-stealers.
In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul does not hesitate to address service-related practices that are getting in the way of effective ministry. Here are some service-related culprits and what you can do to get back the time they steal.
Late start. When the service gets started five minutes late, you can pretty much count on the service going overtime at least by that amount. If you go from starting a service several minutes late to starting a service a few minutes early, you can achieve a swing of five to ten minutes easily. It may be necessary to commission someone from the worship team as the timekeeper to ensure that the service is started two to three minutes early.
Announcements. Either don’t give them from the pulpit, or be very deliberate about limiting them. Train people to read the program. You may be surprised that when you cut out announcements, you find another five to ten minutes in your service. If there is a lot to announce, put it in writing so that people can read and reference it. If you allow someone else to give an announcement, understate the amount of time they have to do so. Experience shows that a novice speaker will take five minutes to speak when you tell them they have one—and if you tell them three minutes, they’ll take ten. Remember also that it takes time to "announce the announcer" and then follow up with your own comments when they’re done.
Long sets. On average, each worship song takes four to five minutes to sing. This means that a five-song set will take 20-25 minutes. Many newer worship anthems take longer than older choruses, so a five-song set, including the opening song, is a safe standard to use. The pastor should be prepared to enter the pulpit at the 20-22 minute mark if the set goes long. If the pastor will do this consistently, the worship team will have all the incentive it needs to start two to three minutes early. In this way, you can reclaim five to ten minutes.
Long prayers. This is a delicate one to address, but the Bible actually beats me to it. Long, public prayers were a point of caution for Jesus. Shorter prayers can save you one to two minutes.
Too many transitions. Valuable time is "wasted" in a service with every transition between elements. Organize your program flow with three transitions (say, between worship / prayer / teaching / worship) rather than nine (between welcome / worship / prayer / worship / prayer / announcement / teaching / announcement / worship / prayer).
Long introductions. Many teachers actually have a 25-minute message with a 10-minute introduction. Drop the introduction and get into the topic quicker. "Get into it, get through it, and get out of it." Instead of beginning, "I was driving by the school the other day, and that got me thinking about how it’s been a while since I have spoken on the topic of children...", say "Today, we’re talking about children." Trimming your introduction this way can save you five to ten minutes.
Repetition. Old deductive theory was "State, illustrate, restate." New inductive theory is "Illustrate, state." Don’t use a battleship of words to get across a row-boat thought. Trimming repetition can cut five minutes out of a message.
Too much content. The best sermons only have one "big idea." If your message has more than one, consider breaking the message out into a series. Better to preach three leisurely 20-minute messages than to try to squeeze an hour of material into 40 minutes. Streamlining content this way can save you 10 to 15 minutes.
Too many points. Beware of the temptation of laundry-list teaching: "10 ways you can..." Long lists take extraordinary time to get through, if for no other reason than you have to manage your location in the list ("The sixth reason is"..."That brings me to the eighth reason..."). Structuring the teaching to limit "time spent maintaining the structure" can save you two to three minutes.
Talking too slow. People can hear at a much faster rate than most talk. Listen to a tape and see if you occasionally wish that the speaker would "pick up the pace." If your cadence is slow and steady, consider stepping on the gas pedal, at least occasionally. Getting out of second gear could save you a couple minutes.
Sluggish conclusions. Precious time can be wasted when teachers "circle looking for a place to land." Script your closing remarks so you can bring the teaching time to a succinct conclusion. This can save you a couple minutes.
Taking advantage of just half of these recommendations could trim 15-30 minutes off your service without any appreciable loss of impact. In fact, less can be more. Many communicators demonstrate this (and for the sake of brevity, I’ve eliminated most of examples!):
"When a sentence is made stronger, it usually becomes shorter."
- Elements of Style, William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White
"I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter."
- Blaise Pascal
"When you wish to instruct, be brief; that men's minds take in quickly what you say, learn its lesson, and retain it faithfully. Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind."
"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak."
- Hans Hofman
Ephesians 4:11-12 states that pastors must prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up. Changes to the service time-frame will typically come only at the explicit direction of the pastor. The shorter sermon may well take even more preparation and focus to deliver, because it will require editing long thoughts to present only what you mean. It might require 30-60 minutes of preparation to remove one minute of extraneous content. But what is it worth to heighten the impact of a sermon given to 50, 100 or 500 listeners—as well as to respect their time?
I know that there are objections, because I’ve had them and heard them over the years. Here are some of the most common and how I respond to them.
"This is going to limit the Spirit moving in our services."
• "Do you really think that God needs more time?" I believe that God’s Spirit can speak a lot to our hearts in the course of an hour. I also trust that the Spirit is at work in a powerful way during the week leading up to the service. We most definitely need the Spirit’s help when we are trying to choose a worship set or pare down a message to its more salient points.
"Our services go over an hour, but we are still growing."
• "Are you growing by conversion growth?" I do not deny that transfers from other churches may be used to, or even enjoy, a longer service. But the longer you perpetuate an elongated service, the more you run the risk of alienating the very people you want to reach.
• "Is it possible that you are growing in spite of your longer service, not because of it?" Through the years, I have seen churches grow with shorter services (of less than 45 minutes) and with longer services (over one hour, 15 minutes). But overall, the sweet spot has been an hour or less.
• "Could you grow even faster if you streamlined your services?" Very few will not come because "the service is too short." More will not come because "the service is too long."
"People say they want more."
• "Good. They’ll probably come back next week." Actually, I hope you do hear people say they want more, because it is a compliment, not a criticism. Some people may even beg you to lengthen the worship time, teaching time or both. It is preferable in my opinion to have people leave wanting more than to dump a truckload on them and have them skip the next couple weeks while they digest it.
• "People who truly want more can get more in their personal devotional time." Design your services with the doubter, the skeptic and the prodigal in mind. Consider adding a "For Further Study" section in your bulletin that lists the pertinent Scriptures from the message and suggestions for reference.
"Is accomplishing a shorter service worth all the change necessary to accomplish it?"
• There are a lot of sacrifices we make for the sake of the mission. Churches cease to grow when they are no longer willing to pay the price for that growth. It costs us something as believers to reach out effectively to unchurched people. Whether or not you determine a shorter service is a worthy objective, we must stand ready to pay a high price for ministry because of what is at stake in it.
Ephesians 5:16 reminds us to "redeem the time" because the days are evil. In a public worship service, we are tempted to think that our primary medium is words; it’s not. Our medium is time. People are giving us their time, and we must do something meaningful with that time. If we think that words are the medium, we tend to think, "I have a lot to say. I wish I had more time." When time is the medium, we are inclined to ask, "What do they need to hear? How can I boil this down?" This is a fundamental, philosophical shift demanded by our mandate to reach out.
Dave Browning is the innovative founder and pastor of Christ the King Community Church International (CTK), named in Outreach magazine’s list of Fastest-Growing and Most Innovative Churches in America. CTK now has more than 30 locations in four states and eight countries, including India, Kenya and Nepal. Dave is a popular conference presenter, encouraging pastors to think differently about the traditional church and challenging them to break the rules. His book, Deliberate Simplicity, expected to release next month, explains his "less is more" approach to equipping believers and streamlining programs to maximize impact.
January 5, 2010
36.Derek Williams says...
Ditto to everything Pastor Brown said. I think that if reducing the time wasted elements from the worship service will help win a soul, why not? Sometimes we do get stuck on our way of doing things as if its the only way God can move. our current service schedules and programs are simply something that was passed down from generations with no real questions as to why two hours, or why three hours. Surely God can do what he wants in any amount of time. Remember a program is just that, a programing of events during the service, none of which Jesus precicesly left detailed minute by minute instructions for. Thanks Pastor Brown, sometimes to reach more we have to think out of the box. Time is very important. Maybe we could shorten our worship program and ask members to spend that extra time strenthening their families, or evangelizing or personal prayer.I'm praying for us all.
September 22, 2009
35.Rev Richard White says...
I am curious. Historically, when did we get plugged into the notion that church services should be 1 hour. As an amateur church historian, and one who has seen the Spirit move powerfully in services that run well beyond an hour, I wonder if we haven't become somewhat brain washed to think that an hour is somehow "sacred."
Try telling a sports enthusiast, a nature lover, a dirt-bike enthusiast, or an avid Scrabble player that they need to be restricted to one hour. It just wouldn't fly.
March 1, 2009
34.Gary Pritchett says...
I do appreciate Dave's viewpoint on service length, but I'm not sure I quite agree with it. I've read many of the comments from other members and I see worthwhile views on either side. My main concern with holding to such a strict "boxed-in" schedule is that as the needs of each individual changes from week to week, so does the message to those individuals. I'm not sure we can always deliver the message, teach the lesson, or sing the right songs to meet each individual need if we try to constrain the service to an hour or less. As Jesus taught the multitudes in his "Sermon on The Mount", he took considerable time to give an in-depth explanation of several points of confusion and debate. I don't feel he was concerned so much with trying to hold their attention. At the conclusion of His teaching the bible says the people were astonished or amazed by the way he taught, with a power and authority they hadn't seen before. In fact, many of those people followed Jesus as He left the mountain to try to hear more of what He could teach them.
So I believe the content of the service should take precedence over the comfort of the hearers. If God was willing to give His absolute best to us, I truly believe we should be willing to give more than 60 precious minutes of our time in a worship service.
February 3, 2009
33.Dennis Stewart says...
I'm very thankful for the person who wrote this article. I'm a pastor who's services run 1 3/4 hr - 2 hrs regularly & I'm attempting to be open-minded concerning the service lengths. I minister probably much longer than most (1 hr 10 min avg) and am primarily a 'teaching' pastor. I realize that this is a long time to have someone sit and listen to ministry of the Word in our culture; however, I wonder that if I shorten the services to an hour would send the message that this is all it really takes to live the Christian life. Just a quick in and a quick out. At this point, I personally think this is what has been part of the problem in the first place-- misrepresentation of the Christian life through the arrangement of the church service (including content of message AND length). God demands EVERYTHING of us, including our time, and I personally feel it sends the wrong message by having an extremely short service that's 'comer friendly'. I must admit, there are many that WON'T come to our church BECAUSE the services seem long to them (I want both spiritual growth in people AND to affect as many lives as possible with God's presence and Word; who doesn't?), but I'm truly seeking God for the answer of what HE wants ME to do. I'm not 'seeker friendly' by ANY stretch of the imagination: I teach Bible doctrine, expository teaching verse-by-verse through books of the Bible, Christian living topics (on occasion, but this will really come out in verse-by-verse teaching through the epistles as well), and I work to stay very balanced so as to produce balanced Christians. I'm enjoying reading comments about this article and would welcome any comments to anything I've said here as well. I want to continually be learning and developing as a pastor and I'm willing to listen to others (even though I might not always agree, I MUST remain teachable). Thanks again
This article seems to have generated alot of comments and I believe this is good.
I do not belive Rev Dave Browning is trying to reduce spiritually in the church and neither do I think that this article is an attempt to have us conform to this world.
There is indeed a case for shorter church services because of the fact that we do live in a day and age where people's attension span is very short and if we would be honest we do waste a lot of time doing things that aren't really spiritually uplifting in alot our services.
The issue I see here is not the changing of the message but a changing of the methods we use to get the same message across in order to win alot of people to the Lord.
There are certain things that are not doctrinally clear in scripture. One of those things is the length of time we must spend in a church service another is the length of time a minister should spend to deliver their message.
In these matters our conscience becomes the primary authority.
Rev Browning has not presented a doctrinal statement to the church insisting that we must have one hour services but rather an encouragement for us to do what we can in order to maximize our outreach in this micro-wave age.
I believe that the spirit of the message here is that we should maximize the time we have and avoid a lot of the unnecessary things we do in our services which do not add any major spiritual value to those services.
I therefore commend Rev Browning for this.
January 21, 2009
31.Rev. Sharon Fralick says...
Please folks; try to not take Scripture out of context! A person can make any Scripture state what they are trying to convey. You MUST take the Scripture in whole. It MUST be understood through the instruction of the Holy Spirit, not of mans soulical understanding. I'm not trying to be argumentative with anyone, but too many times a person will take a particular Scripture out of context and make a doctrine around it (mans doctrine, not Gods Doctrine). One simple example of this is what Mr. Browning is stating about Ephesians 5:16 for redeeming the time. This does NOT mean that we are to worry about how long our church services are; read it in context with the Bible. It is speaking about redeeming the time to do the Fathers work for His Kingdom and being productive and good fruit bearers for the Kingdom in the time He has given us to occupy for His work as Believers.
I appreciate the concepts in this article as I keep in mind that I am not reading a doctoral thesis that thoroughly and rigorously treats the subject. I keep trying to shorten the service down to an hour for two reasons:
1. Knowing my audience and the occasion. Paul did this when he preached at Mars Hill as well as to Eutychus. Whenever I see the congregation drifting I shift gears to get them back on track. We are always taking into consideration numerous factors, time is one of them. Time is also a common consideration whether it be an evangelistic service, a purely worship service, a seminar, a Sunday School class, etc. We can't ignore the time factor just so we can prove that we are paying attention to God. Let all things be done decently and in order! 2. The fact of the matter is that longer services usually is because of boring filler elements thrown in. One of the best and most enlightening and challenging preachers I've heard has a reputation for never going over 15 to 20 minutes in a sermon. That is because He doesn't fill it with stuff that he thinks is fascinating, but only to him! I don't get the idea that Dave is saying that short is the only good, but that being long for long's sake is good (you aren't being spiritual if you're not long so throw in all kinds of distracting things). Conclusion: lots of good ideas here, some bordering on being a must, but a thoughtful preacher will know how to apply the exceptions to the rules. BTW-the doctor's visit, is that the time spent in the waiting room or the time with the doctor? In either case, can I have your doctor's phone number?
January 21, 2009
29.Daniel McGhee says...
Unbelievable... And we wonder why the church of Jesus Christ in America is so powerless and worldly. God help us... Revival needs to come to this nation, but first it needs to come to the pulpits of America. The church is flourishing in China right now, at great personal expense to the believers. When persecution finally comes to America, and it will come maybe sooner rather than later, the Lord's church will be purged of such worldly thinking and sheep will be separated from the goats. The chaff will be blown away and the wheat will remain, and many of these "mega" churches will completely apostacize all in the name of "reaching the culture." Mark my words, the Gospel will be completely and thoroughly lost to them, if it hasn't been already.
Please understand, I'm not against "big" churches. We want our church to grow, but we want it to grow God's way. We are a part of an organization that is passionate about planting and growing churches (www.harvestbiblefellowship.us). But just because something is growing, doesn't mean its healthy growth. I can whack myself in the head with a baseball bat and my head will sure grow, but it won't be healthy.
January 20, 2009
28.Rev. Sharon Fralick says...
I believe that Pastors need to be sensitive to who they are ministering to and what the people need. Although I keep an eye on the clock somewhat and do not necessarily preach to long of a sermon, I also am able to sense when the people are recieving or not even when they are a visitor. I think that any seasoned Minster of God will be able to gage their own services according to their congregation and their visitors. Yes, we seem to live in a microwave society, but we are also told not to conform to the worlds ways. God does have an order in His Church, but we cannot put Him or the Holy Spirit in a box. I have been to alot of Church Services in my life that have been so structured that the Holy Spirit is not allowed to do what He chooses to do because the Pastor has cut worship off right when the anointing of God was beginning to minister to people because he had to move the service on. We do have a structure in our church, but we also allow the Holy Spirit to do as He chooses, not as we choose to do. Who suffers in this? The people do because they have missed out on a wonderful thing that the Lord wanted to do and the Holy Spirit is grieved. Yes, a shorter service may attract people, but I am concerned that this article and book will mislead people as well. If we are going to win others to Christ we need to be committed to what we say we are called to do as Ministers of the Gospel. To minister to people instead of worring about numbers and growing a mega church and being a seeker friendly church. Where the Spirit of God is there is liberty. If people are excited about what God is doing in a church through His Spirit moving, they will tell others and others will come and be blessed as well no matter how long the service is. When the Holy Spirit is moving and a person is receiving something from the Lord, they don't even know how long the service is anyway until it's over. In Acts 20 Paul preached to the diciples so long that a young man who had come to listen fell asleep that was sitting in a window and fell down to the ground dead from the third story. God healed and resurrected him and he talked to Paul until morning and the people were conforted that the man was alive. Again, I am not saying that we should not be sensitive to the people, but we need to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit in our Church services and allow God to minister to those in need, saved and unsaved. You can go to most any foreign country and they are so hungry for Gods Word. They will walk for miles to hear a preacher preach Gods Word and the preacher better not even think about giving a short sermon. What is the matter with us when we cannot give God even one day out of the week to sacrifice our time to Him. I'm sure this makes Him very sad as it does me. We do relationship and servant evangelism and get out into the community and build friendships and people respond to a geniune caring and come to the church and are saved, delivered and blessed.
January 20, 2009
27.s Gamel says...
Two thoughts as I read the discussion: 1) I'd like to see objective, verifiable proof that people won't pay attention for more than 45 mins to an hour... In fact, people DO pay attention for longer stretches all the time - sporting events, movies, when Lost, 24, or American Idol is on TV... If what we do is well-done, interesting, engaging, and helpful, people will not watch the clock. Frankly, I've been in short services - an hour or less - that were poorly planned and executed, wasted my time, and should have been even shorter than they were. 2) It is inaccurate to say Jesus "never" taught for long periods of time. We simply cannot state that from what Scripture says. There are very few, if any, "complete transcript" accounts of Jesus' teachings in the NT. It is accurate to say that we do not have lengthy teaching portions preserved for us in the Gospels.
January 20, 2009
26.Samar Madison says...
The purpose of coming together on the Lord's day is to observe the Lord's supper in remembrance of Christ's sacrifice, singing songs of praise, praying, hearing the word of God and giving ourselves to the Lord. Let us strive to see that all the above missions have not been done too soon.
January 19, 2009
25.C Reed says...
Talk about opening a Pandora's Box. This issue appears to have a lot of responses. With all the experiences talked about we ought to have a lot more ideas about how long a service should be...right? I like the challenge of Philippians 2:3-4 based on the motivation of 1 Peter 3:8-9. How 'bout you?
January 19, 2009
24.Bryan Downs says...
Here are some thoughts - they may be true or not: I think that if we advertise our Sunday service in anyway then we need to be sensitive to 'seekers.' If you look at Jesus' practice - it was with the people who sought Him out for further enquiry that He went deeper and it was from among those that He chose that He trained leaders. I find that the in depth and transformational encounters I have with people tend to take way longer than the Sunday morning show. So we might as well worship God and if The Spirit moves, praise God... but the official break/end must come... and allow those who want more to linger and receive more. As an example, we used to do an evangelistic Bible study. We always officially ended on time but allowed informal interaction to continue after. Often questions and answers voluntarily went on for hours. If you are doing training for the saved only on the Sunday AM service you will have weak Christians indeed. Real training cannot be done in even a two hour open-to-the-public service. It takes more than that. I'm sure Jesus did much of His training as they lived life together and walked along. So if the training is only on Sunday AM - we'll have weak Christianity - And so we have. But for the un-Churched... well, they often (though less and less as time goes by) tend to come in the door of a Chuch when they are looking for answers.
Aside: as a consideration... regardless if the quesion is for services to be longer or shorter - Christians need to grow up and not make their preferences the measure of things. Arguments about service length reminds me of what is often confused with evangelism: the tendency to beat up on the vulnerable person who is seeking or just made a commitment. Many people bully (perhaps with good intentions) the open person where they would not get away with saying such things either to a person who was not seeking or to a person who was well established in their faith. He who wins souls is wise. Bullying the seeker or the baby Christian is not evangelism. And saying that Sunday service is for the Christian sounds pious but overly simplifies; it is for whomever The Lord draws- so we are called to love and serve them accordingly. Anyways, these are my thoughts. May God guide us.
January 19, 2009
23.Larry Manning says...
proably all comes down to the purpose/goal of the Sunday service in that fellowship
I don't believe we have to 'attract God' or wait on him...he's already there in the believers present; since worship is 'presenting our bodies as living sacrifice', I think the other 167 hours/week are even more important than the one or two on Sunday as far as what believers do to worship; perhaps at times we judge the 'effectiveness'of what God has done or the 'move of the Spirit' on Sunday by outward standards...emotion, an experience, etc...if we are talking about the effectiveness of reaching the lost on Sunday morning in our culture in America in the 21st century, I think shorter rather than longer would be the modus operandi
January 19, 2009
22.Steve Burks says...
I would agree with Bob Merkle on his comments. I seem to remeber Jesus told those early followers to go and "tarry" in Jerusalem until they recienve the power." With that being said as pastor it is not my intention to have a long service for the sake of being long. But I do think we live in a microwave society that wants things on their terms. Was it not the Psalmist who said "They that wait upon the Lord..." While I realize we can do this in our private devotional life I think there is something to it on a corporate level as well. Here is one more thought, so many times we design our services to attract people and forget we need to do those things that attract the presence of God privatly and corporatly.
January 19, 2009
21.Larry Manning says...
Interesting, Jesus never spoke for long periods of time...
As we meet in a cineplex, ending on time is always on our minds; I enjoyed Dave's ideas; our leadership has decided that the church can't be the church as it says in Corinthians, Acts, etc. on Sunday morning, whether in a one hour OR two hour service; that is definitely better done in homes, meeting with believers in a believer-focused setting, with no program to follow as the Sunday service does; we don't compromise the message of the gospel, however, we are are 'seeker-sensitive' in the way we do things on Sunday to reach as many as possible; I think in our culture that would mean shorter, rather than longer services
January 19, 2009
20.Dan Smith says...
Maybe Dave should read more of the Bible than I Cor.9:21. Maybe Nehemiah and what had to happen for real revival to come. The kind of worship they applied themselves to, willingly! It even says they assembled together as one. Imagine standing as one worshipping Jehovah God and as another David put it in Ps.16:11"You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joyin your presence, and eternal pleasures at your right hand." and at the ed of 60 minutes someone saying to the Holy Spirit "OOPS!times up.Whether it be in a church service or eternal heaven.
January 19, 2009
19.Allan Lee says...
Re. Joe #8: "Dave is right on! Like anything else as soon as someone don't agree wisdom takes a back seat."
January 19, 2009
18.Norm Yukers says...
good discussion. Our services usually are in the 75-80 minute time frame. Good reminder to make sure announcements are at a minimum and that we aren't using words for the sake of hearing ourselves. I do come down on the side of the Sunday AM services being more of a celebratory service for the redeemed.
January 19, 2009
17.Michael Sims says...
Excellent...but, too long! Information is best kept as short and as concise as possible. However, inspiration needs no time clock. When God moves, people wait. Perhaps, the successful 'short' service is filled with information and lacks inspiration...mmmmm, I wonder?
Bravo! I've planned a 55 minute service for the past 10 years (60 minutes if we celebrate the Eucharist). The human attention span is such that a longer service is a waste of time. Even the best intentioned Christians find their minds wandering after awhile. I try to keep prayer short and focused. There is no need for long, repetitive babbling prayers. After I type my sermon I always go back to do a heavy edit -- cutting out all the repetition and fluff. You can deliver a powerful message in 20 minutes. I put the entire service -- prayer, Scripture, sermon, benediction etc on paper and make sure it is no more than 4500 words.
I like the quote... "The mind can absorb only what the seat can endure." But the problem is Scripture and worship are not addressing the "seat"...
This article has such poor reasoning from Scripture (easy to "proof text" when those Scriptures are taken out of context)... and you setup a nice strawman by asking essentially "does God need more than an hour" as some justification. Well the answer is no but I think you may miss the main reason for a Worship Service... it is not to service the crowds or the people but it is for us to worship / service God... so the question would be better put... is an hour enough for us to worship God? Then I think you would come up with an entirely different answer.
Another question that I have is since when is church growth (numerically) and worship linked? Maybe if we were a bit more serious about giving time to worshipping God maybe ... just maybe others would see our conviction and desire to find out why we commit ourselves to this practice... after all isn't that how crowds normally gather? They see something that others are looking at and start to want to gather... try this stand in the middle of a store and stare at the roof... do it for more than just a few seconds and you will soon have others stopping to look up also... And if you are looking at something interesting they will hang around for a bit... so maybe if we are worshipping and showing others that it is something interesting then they too would hang around a bit...
Would we want to run our marriages or other relationships like this? I can hear it how "Well dear I only have one hour with you this week... so lets cut to the chase and get it over with"... Or "Gosh boss I know that seminar is 2 hours long when they get it down to 1 hour I'll attend..." Or "When a NASCAR race is down to an hour or the football game is one hour then I'll become a fan, after all my seat can't endure much more". I wonder if all the master artists, muscians, surgeons, commercial pilots had the same attitude... oh never mind you get the point...
Ok one more... I wonder if the last long car trip we took was more than an hour? Hummm I guess that's different huh? We are anticipating a wonderful destination... we are excited and looking forward to something better.... oh oh wait a minute... now maybe it isn't such a bad comparison....
No, shorter isn't better (and longer for the sake of longer isn't better)... but when you worship God in Spirit and Truth time will stand still....
Just a thought... (as you can tell I didn't like the article...)
Maybe the trouble is that the reason so many are wanting to get out of church so quickly is because there is nothing happening there... maybe God's presence has passed the gathering by... and maybe they just are not interesting in the things of God.
Maybe a long service done right is worth doing... you know it might not be easy but.... (see we could use the same logic as the writer to justify a longer service)... but that too would miss the point of what worship is supposed to be about.
January 19, 2009
14.Keith Rockefeller says...
Dave's point have some merit, but it raises the question of priorities. Why is it that people can sit on aluminum bleachers for two hours at a high school football game when it is cold, perhaps even snowing, and not complain, but if a church service goes over an hour in a warm building with padded pews there is a problem? It seems like the maturity of the congregation is at fault. Why also could people a century or more ago listen to D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, or Charles Spurgeon for two hours or more and we can't? It makes me wonder more about the state of the church than anything else.
January 19, 2009
13.sam silverman says...
Bros...chill. This is just another opinion/viewpoint. I don't think Dave is trying to pass it off as "inspired." BTW, Dave please send me your doctor's name and address. An hour appt would be heavenly!
January 19, 2009
12.Jack Clegg says...
look at what happens in modern culture
Here is the problem with the "modern" church. We have culture, not Christ, in the driver's seat. Of course, the only time "time" is mentioned in regard to a church service was when Paul preached long past midnight and Eutychus fell asleep (Acts 20). After Paul restores life to Eutychus, he goes back to preaching "a long while until daybreak." Nothing is mentioned, or even hinted at, that Paul should shorten his message to accomodate the lost. Secondly, everyone praises growth as an indicator of blessing. Using the author's approach one might ask, "What else grows?" A cancerous tumor grows, therefore (using the inductive approach), cancer must be good. First, we have destroyed family and community life with fast food; now we want to destroy the church with "fast worship." How does such a bad idea get advertised on a website on "sermons?"
January 19, 2009
11.John Casto says...
Wow, we've been doing the one hour service for 10 yrs. I'm glad it's finally catching on. We have Great Worship, Series Teaching, Pray for Needs, the Offering. Shout Hallelujah! We're out the door. 60 minutes, occassionally 70 minutes.
Apparently the 2hr+ service mentality is on a large percentage of the church world. Pastors end up wasting time and in some cases just "running out" the clock. Sorry, most people have better things to do than to listening to 15 minutes of "how the jelly bean sale is doing".
The "we want it louder and longer" crowd left our church years ago. For which we are very thankful! God is so good!
January 19, 2009
10.Ron Ching says...
just returned from house church worship in China. If the service is not at least two hours long, people feel cheated. They come at great sacrifice, often from great distances, everyone with a notebook and Bible, and they know they can get "busted" anytime by the police. Different strokes for different folks?
January 19, 2009
9.Richard Whitcomb says...
Good points BUT - the real question is "What is the purpose of a Sunday morning church service?" If the PURPOSE of the Sunday morning church service is to reach as many lost as possible then the article should be adhered to religiously. If the PURPOSE of the service is to equip the believers then the views in the article aren't nearly as important. But if the PURPOSE of the service is to meet with God and worship Him and soak in His presence - then we are missing the mark!
Unspoken in Dave's article is that his church sees the Sunday service as primarily as evangelistic for the lost. My church's mission statement is to "build disciples of Jesus Christ." So our question would have to be "Is a one hour service the most effective way to build mature followers of Jesus Christ?" It may be, be realize that that's a question not addressed in Dave's good article.
January 19, 2009
7.joseph dimaggio says...
Dave is right on! Like anything else as soon as someone don't agree wisdom takes a back seat. I could tell you first hand, I'm on the street leading people to Christ and when I bring up the subject about going to church what do you thing the people say? Church is to long!
I went to church where worship was 1 hour the message 1 hour and prayer for the people lasted 30 minutes a grand total of 2 hours 30 minutes. Did people get saved yes! once in a while. Did people get healed yes! once in a while. But tell me pastors, what did all of this do to reach the people in the community I could tell you it did nothing!
What good is a two hour and 30 minute church service? a one hour and 30 minute church service? or even a one hour church service do? If you are not reaching your community with the gospel of Jesus Christ
let me ask you pastors something? When in the world all the people in your church who claim to be disciples for Christ,going to leave their "seats and take the gospel of Christ to the streets".
As far as this statement goes "Sermon-ettes produce Christian-ettes." This is a very sad thing to say. You sir! need to listen to Jesus words after all he preach nothing but Sermon-ettes At least, that's the way I see it! iF ITS GOOD ENOUGH FOR JESUS ITS GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME! Selah!
January 19, 2009
6.s Gamel says...
There was some great information here, some stuff I'm going to put into practice right away - most worship services could use some tightening up especially in the areas of announcements and transitions. But the worship service has a dual purpose - encouragement and equipping of the saints AND outreach to those far from God - and there's a lot of baby in the bathwater that is thrown out when we shortcut things... People routinely sit through movies - at the theater and on television - that are an hour and a half to two hours long. If it is well done, interesting, engaging, and accessible, they will sit through a worship service that exceeds an hour.
January 19, 2009
5.Madison Hankal says...
As pastor of a mainline congregation, I find it interesting to read articles like this one, as well as others I've recently read in magazines like Rev, and Leadership. For years, the mainline churches were criticized about being concerned with things like the length of worship services -- of having layers of leadership accountability, linking personal piety to social involvement (I think today we're calling it being "missional")
If all these non-denominational churches who identify themselves with other churches like Walnut Creek, etc, aren't careful they may discover they have become denominational with all the cares and concerns they criticized their older sister denominations.
January 19, 2009
4.Deane Plew says...
I would surely not be in the class of my brother who wrote this article. However, I do not believe the primary purpose of the body gathering for corporate worship is a "commitment to reach the lost." Although Paul says that the unbeliever who is among us can come to Christ by observing our corporate worship the primary purpose for our meeting is to equip the believer for many purposes, including reaching the lost where our Lord has planted him/her (home, job, recreaction, etc.). I also take exception to "psychological and practical daring." We are not marketing Christ or the church. Consequently, I do not look to the world's methods to establish service our service practices. However that being said, I do agree with the author that we must carefully look at every segment of our corporate worship experience to ensure that we are indeed redeeming the time. Our people place a value on their time and we must use vigilance to ensure that we are not wasting it but using every minute for God's glory. Thank you for giving me things to think through. May our Lord abundantly bless you.
January 19, 2009
3.John Morlan says...
Not to be rude, but I wish this article would have been shorter. If it had ended right about the point before he said that people check out after 60 minutes, he would have had me.
This kind of commercialized, "stream-lined," boxed-in sort of talk ended with the previous era. We can do better than these REALLY ANECDOTAL kinds of over-generalizations. Everybody is not the same.
January 19, 2009
2.Allan Lee says...
Ooops, beginng line above should have been: "but NOT necessarily for "the Church..."
Sorry about that!
January 19, 2009
1.Allan Lee says...
I truly appreciate Dave's concern for "the visitor" to our "church service," referring primarily it seems, to the once global 11:00AM time slot, but now could be any other time on any other day - but the "main church service" idea remains.I think his ideas for an "evangelistic" focused "service" is quite acceptable - but necessarily for "the church" - people redeemed by the blood of Christ through faith in His Person and work.
Th NT seems to portray that "the church" meets together in order to be instructed in the Word by gifted teachers, edified by the fellowship and sharing of gifts by individual members, praying for one another,observing the Lord's Supper and "provoking one another to love and good deeds." These activities takes time and leads to genuine "organic" spiritual growth. If "a visitor," meaning a non-Christian in this case, does in fact come in and observes these activities being carried out "decently and in order" through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, "he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you. [1 Cor. 14:24-25]
Dave's "microwave" method will undoubtedly result in growth, but unfortunately, one will have to question whether it is "mechanical," "organizational" and "outward" growth only, not the "inner organic growth" that takes time but results in "fruit that lasts." Perhaps we could say that his "microwave" approach is just that, the "entrance" into the "crock-pot" experiences of "the church" that leads to genuine spiritual maturity and Christ-likeness. As some wag is said to have said: "Sermon-ettes produce Christian-ettes."
At least, that's the way I see it!