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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:

  • Doctor's visits
  • Business meetings
  • Class periods
  • Television shows

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 of 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 when 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:

9:45
Pre-service Prayer
 
This needs to begin well in advance, so as to not “bleed” into the start of the service.
9:57
Opening Song
10:00
Welcome and Opening Prayer
 
This should be direct and brief.
10:01
Worship Music
 

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.

10:20
Pastoral Prayer
 
The 20-minute mark is an important one to hit in order to assure a one-hour service.
10:21
Greeting
 
If you take a "fellowship break" during the service, allow more time here.
10:22
Teaching
 

Teachers should shoot for a 25-minute message with a very brief introduction, i.e. "It’s good to be with you..." etc.

10:50
Closing Prayer
 

The 50-minute mark is an important one to hit in order to assure a one-hour service.

10:51
Q&A and Announcements
 

There should only be one or two priority announcements.  Other items may be listed in the program.

10:55
Closing Song and Offering
 
Consider asking people to stand after collection has passed them.
10:59
Closing Prayer
  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. 

Service-Related Culprits

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.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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).

Teaching-Related Culprits

1. Long introductions.  Many teachers actually have a 25-minute message with a 10-minute introduction. Drop the introduction and get into the topic more quickly. "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 as much as five to ten minutes.

2. 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 rowboat thought. Trimming repetition can cut five minutes out of a message.

3. 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.

4. Too many points. Beware of the temptation of laundry-list teaching:  "10 ways you can..."  Long lists take an 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.

5. Talking too slowly. 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 of minutes.

6.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 of 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." 
- Cicero

"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak." 
- Hans Hofmann

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?

Objection!

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 of 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, explains his "less is more" approach to equipping believers and streamlining programs to maximize impact.

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Anthony Lacy

commented on May 23, 2011

Very good article, I could not agree more. In order to reach our generation the church must learn to adapt but not compromise on the message. To be able to preach the timeless gospel in a way that will reach people we must not put up barriers that flow out of our church culture. This article raises some very interesting concepts so rather than feeling that anything that challenges the way we do church is unspiritual we need to honestly ask can we do church more effectively? Anthony "Consulting To Grow

Peter Thomas

commented on May 23, 2011

Excellent article! So many churches only think about satisfying established believers. We need to stop planning our services for the people who come and start planning our services for the people who don't!

Allen Nelson

commented on May 23, 2011

Definitely the most pragmatic article i've read in a long time. Could absolutely not DISAGREE any more. Although there are several areas I could deal with I will deal only with your foundational flaw: That church services are for the lost. What? Where in the world is that in the Bible? Search the Scriptures and find me one Bible verse that would seem to indicate for lost people to come to us and that our gatherings should be for the lost. Absurd! "Come to my church because we only go 1 hour..." That's the saddest invite I've ever heard.

Deborah Higdon

commented on May 23, 2011

I totally disagree. As the world is getting worse, we need more time together to fellowship not less. The Bible is so true that "In the last days the church would look more like the world". We spend hours in movie theaters, hours shopping in the malls, hours putting in over time at work but want to limit time with God to less than an hour. How ridiculous! We are told to "Diligently seek God." This takes time. The church is the role model for how to seek God. PLEASE don't fall for this ploy of the enemy. Spend time in God's presence with fellow believers. It will be the best time you have ever spend. It will prepare you for what Saints will do for an eternity which is spend TIME in the presence of God forever and ever. So if you don't like spending time with God now, you will never want to do it for an eternity! Hmmmm...maybe that is the real issue?

Chaplain Shawn Kennedy

commented on May 23, 2011

I agree 100, especially if we are to reach more men. In sports, games can go to overtime but practices are always on time and within a certain time frame. Church is the practice and life is the game.

Jerry Tanner

commented on May 23, 2011

Great job. I've had to intercept guest speakers and overly long participants more than once. Appreciate the review of strengths and weaknesses of timing the service.

Lisa Jenkins

commented on May 23, 2011

This is an excellent article. For anyone who disagrees, I believe that the point is being missed. Of course, we should spend more time with God and in fellowship. However, the audience that we are trying to reach are people who are currently not spending ANY time with God at all!!! They do not come to church for various reasons, some of which are narrow dogmatic principles which we continue to hold on to without trying to understand the people who we are trying to reach. The early disciples were strategizers and we, too must strategize. Get the unchurched and doubters with an hour long service and THEN get them interested in various other activities and fellowships. If we are going to be true fishermen, we must remember, we have to catch them first before we can clean them!

Jon Miller

commented on May 23, 2011

I agree with this article. On Sunday morning our service go from 10:30-11:45 this includes prayer, singing of hymns, offering, communion and message. Our Sunday evening and Wednesday evening services are both exactly one hour. My thinking is that we should respect the people who attend enough to let them know when to expect the service to start and stop. There have even been a couple of times that I have stopped my sermon mid point and told the church that I would finish it during the evening service. I never want anyone to leave feeling like we have taken advantage of them.

Rusty Conyers

commented on May 23, 2011

This WORLDLY mindset makes our enemy very pleased! Sad article. "be not conformed to this world" We can't convert sinners to the ways of Christ because we are too busy conforming to the ways of the world. Really sad to see it happening.

Jerry Burns

commented on May 23, 2011

So sad to see what is happening in the emerging church. Jesus and the Apostles didn't need to shorten their services to win the lost! At least once Jesus had to serve lunch because his service lasted so long. I seem to remember a person falling asleep and out a window during one of the Acts of the Apostles' Services. The question is, are you going to "dumb down" your congregation to the level of new converts or are you going to bring them up to the maturity of the rest of the congregation? Here's a unique idea that we use in our thriving Pentecostal Church. Build a fire in your services and people will come and they will come back. We consistently have 2 hour services and people stay for an hour afterwards fellow shipping with one another!

Dick Joyce

commented on May 23, 2011

I went to the rodeo a few nights ago, and it lasted nearly four hours. Nobody left because what was happening was exciting and they kept things moving rapidly. In my fifty-five years of being a Christian (missionary/evangelist). I've watched two denominations go from spiritually vibrant to lackluster with their in-vogue, bland one hour services. There's no virtue in a ninety minute service in an of itself if it merely ambles aimlessly from one thing to another. But if the leaders keep focused, it does give people more time to "soak" in God's presence. If the author is right, wouldn't a thirty minute service be even more effective in reaching the world?

Rodney Idle

commented on May 23, 2011

Absolutely one of the most ridiculous arguments I have ever read to spend LESS time in worship. The problem with this premise is that we have made Sunday Morning about us. It was NEVER meant to be about us...it is about HIM. I cannot disagree more and I am sorry to think that we in our culture are still looking for ways to limit our time with others in the practice of worship. Perhaps we can REFOCUS our time on Sunday Mornings instead of wanting to REDUCE our time.

Gary Few

commented on May 23, 2011

I would like to get the name of the doctor?s office that gets you in and out in an hour?? Most business meetings that includes business last longer than an hour and class periods may be just an hour long but they usually meet more than once a week. Our worship services need to be God focused and not man focused. I believe the church is most like the church that Jesus intended when She is meeting, working and witnessing in the community that God has placed Her in. Very rarely do 1st time visiting guests make a decision for Christ. It usually takes place in a one on one sitting. There's something refreshing about a church that does not conform to the pressures of the culture. BTW I need more than 3 1/2 minutes of prayer on Sunday morning. Just my thoughts?

David Hodgin

commented on May 23, 2011

The article has a good point that we need to be careful about wasting time. But I would rather meet our Maker and say I did my best to teach His word and worship Him, rather than to say I was concise, had a good strategy and the non-believers were comfortable in church. People are bored at boring events, not long events.

James Dale

commented on May 23, 2011

Mr. Browning wrote is his illustration "you cite your surprise that you were "out of there in less than an hour." Are you kidding me! What a lack of reverence for God? Let's not overburden people with WORSHIPING the Alpha and Omega, the Creator of all things, the giver of life, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort etc..., for more than an hour. Shameful! Consider Paul's words to Timothy, 1Tim. 4:12-16. In a nutshell Paul tells Timothy to ......give attention.....take pains......be absorbed.....pay close attention.....persevere. Nothing about this indicates less time. Let's stop appealing to the flesh of man and start really helping him with his spirit.

Jason Bonnicksen

commented on May 23, 2011

Bravo! We've done well at lengthy posturing for the sake of being evangelical. Maybe we need to retool our messages for truthful precision, verses lengthy posturing. Jesus got to the point, maybe we should too.

Sterling Franklin

commented on May 23, 2011

God quite often works through unconventional means. This approach can work with/reach some, but phew, I do love services where we get caught up in worship and prayer, or where the Lord takes us elsewhere in Scripture where He desires. Maybe even interactive Q-A time for the young believer and seeker, and time for healing for the sick. People are hungry for Jesus! I appreciate the desire to reach the lost even within this sound-bite/Youtube culture. Not my cup of tea on the 60, but perhaps I could see this as an additional to-the-point service for evangelistic purposes? Where the Word is preached, it'll bring fruit. I'm probably less critical since I used to work in media (where things have to be budgeted per-second), but again, I'd advise being flexible to let God work fully and in His way.

Derrick Tuper

commented on May 23, 2011

A lot of mixed reviews here. I actually see both sides. Paul said in 1st. Cor. 14:33, 'For God is not a God of disorder but of peace'. And in verse 40, 'But everything should be done in a fitting an orderly way'. We need to be structured in our services. However, we can be too structured. Follow a pattern, but don't think that if you go over five minutes all is lost. I don't feel it's necessary to stop your sermon mid-point to end on time. I've cut it off at a good point and carried it over into next Sunday, but that was when I knew if I continued I would be taking a very long time and "cramming". We need to be careful and balanced. The church is about reaching the lost but it's also about edifying the saved. Another tough thing to balance is appealing to people in the sense that we are so entertainment focused we feel we need to bring that into the church. We're no longer worshipping the Lord, we're giving a concert. We're not worshipping; we're entertaining. We don't need a big band, we don't need bells and whistles. The Spirit of the Lord is capable of reaching people. One thing that has helped me find balance (because I used to be one-sided with a, 'let the service take as long as it needs to' approach) is along the lines of the statement used, "The mind can absorb only what the seat can endure." If you can see a good deal of people in the congregation looking at their watch, sleeping, wandering eyes, fidgeting in their seats an hour into the service, why go on much longer? Because if you've lost them at some point then everything you say after that will be lost. And BTW, since when did Preaching become "teaching"? I definately didn't like that usage. There, I've gone on long enough. Perhaps I should've whittled down my comment-sorry if I lost anyone half-way through.

Jeff Nine

commented on May 23, 2011

This article really resonates with me. The majority of our congregation (~95) is 20-somethings that grew up on Facebook. Many of them have disdain for "corporate worship services" and have a real thirst for "small group" fellowship and house churches. It is imperative that we remain relevant to their needs. We stress the importance and scriptural mandate of the large worship service. But we keep an hour-long Sunday service and expand the teaching concepts during Bible study and other activities during the week. So the pastor (me) gets to do the teaching and preaching from the pulpit, then the discussion continues throughout the week at various Bible studies and small group sessions. It takes a bit more planning to keep everything in sync, but meets them where they need to be met right now. If you lose them on Sunday you have lost them Monday through Saturday as well.

Lisa Jenkins

commented on May 23, 2011

OK. I know I've had my turn already, but it seems as if people think the regular service for the mature disciples (mature, regardless of age) is going to be eliminated. I don't think that's what the author is necessarily saying. He is giving an alternative that will certainly work in many situations where people simply do not come to church OR to add another service during the week. I know a church which has 2 traditional Sunday services with all the bells and whistles and on Saturday afternoon a 1 hour service where people come as they are between little league and shopping. Many of Saturday people people have later transitioned to a regular Sunday service which is broader and fuller and they become active members within the entire fellowship. I don't know how it is in the Bible Belt, but here in New York City (the city which in fact really does not sleep), we'll do what we can to get folk in the door! God gave us creative minds. Let's use them.

Fernando Villegas

commented on May 23, 2011

I will agree that God does not waste time, and neither should we. God is orderly, and so should our worship services be. I think he had some good points on how to be orderly and how not to waste time. BUT...I disagree with his overall premise of limiting worship services to one hour. Lisa Jenkins stated her belief that anyone who disagrees is missing his point. With all due respect, however, I believe it is Mr. Browning that is missing the point of what worship is all about. The length of time of worship is mostly (though not completely) irrelevant. It is the OBJECT and CONTENT of worship that must be our focus. Mr. Browning referred to 1 Corinthians 14. It is interesting that Paul describes a worship service where unbelievers fall down, worship God, and declare that God is really among them. And they do this NOT because the service lasted less than an hour, but rather because all prophesied, leading them to be convicted by all and called to account by all. So, good ideas on how not to waste time. Take them and apply them for what they're worth. But it is ridiculous to believe that churches that limit their worship services to one hour are inherently more committed to reaching the lost than those who don't. On the list of priorities for a worship service, it is nowhere near the top.

Ken Keifer

commented on May 23, 2011

Awesome article! To those who disagree: If you are a preacher, would your ego allow an independent evaluation of your worship service? I am amazed at how ridiculously long some things take in worship in many services I have attended. Minutes (yes minutes) of dead air, useless info, meaningless jokes for the sake of telling a joke, etc. It is predictable when this topic is brought up that many play the "spirituality" card in defense for overly long services. NONE, I repeat NONE of the suggestions cut anything that really matters. And, if you follow his suggestions and just have to have a long service....look at how much time you would have for additional songs, prayer, (meaningful) preaching, etc. Don't get hung up on the "hour thing." The real point is trimming the fat, exhausting the dead air, and exiling the extraneous. How in the world does more and longer announcements, dead air (waiting for someone to walk from the back of the room to the microphone and then asking, "Is this thing on?" is the classic, but sadly oft-seen example), sermons that ramble, etc. have anything to do with making it "God's time?" I am writing this as one who, in a wholesale manner, dislikes the extreme "seeker sensitive" mentality. But, why make unbelievers jump through the hoop of enduring boring, useless, meaningless wastes of time. And, we only get one chance typically. Lastly, for those who disagree. Longer is not always better, but it is always long. Relish the complaints of those who said it wasn't long enough...you have them right where they need to be...thirsty for more! Ecclesiastes 6:11 (interestingly, just happened to read that tonight in devotion time with my wife).

Fernando Villegas

commented on May 23, 2011

Ken, that is why I said that the suggestions themselves were good. You wrote, "The real point is trimming the fat, exhausting the dead air, and exiling the extraneous." If that was the real point, I agree 100. What I disagree with is statements such as: "The one-hour service is 'where the rubber meets the road' in our commitment to reach the lost." The message this statement communicates is that the lost want to be in and out of church in an hour or less, and if your church wants to be committed to reaching the lost, that is how long your worship service will lost. And I'm saying: No, if you are really committed to reaching the lost, there are many issues far more important that must be dealt with, including things like "trimming the fat," before you get to the actual length of the service. The whole tenor of the article, from the title (which I acknowledge may not have been chosen by Mr. Browning himself) on down, placed the emphasis on getting in and out as quickly as possible. If that was not meant to be the emphasis, Mr. Browning should have followed his own advice and trimmed anything that was a barrier to his main point.

Fernando Villegas

commented on May 23, 2011

By the way, I would appreciate it if supporters of this article would consider the possibility that those of us who disagree may have a legitimate argument for doing so, instead of implying or asserting that our disagreement is because of our "egos" or because we "missed the point."

Dav Ross

commented on May 24, 2011

One hour sure works for us, though sometimes it drags overtime and so thanks for the insights on how to retain the goal. Our guys go out for fellowship after each of the the three services, and some hang around for a further 45 minutes doing that. Some people leave straight away, but we catch them during the week at cell group. We are growing our overall congregation numbers rapidly using this model, which was chosen in order to use our smallish property assets more frequently, rather than go massively into debt so we could all meet together. 1 hour services has to be part of a wholistisic approach, but I'm a definate fan. There's more to life than spending all Sunday in a church service.

Allen Nelson

commented on May 24, 2011

I still think some people are missing the point here: SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP IS NOT FOR UNBELIEVERS. Do we expect them to come? Sure. I hope they do. Do we invite them to come? Certainly. The question "how long should a church service be" is really the wrong question. First you need to ask these 2 questions: WHO is Sunday morning service for and WHAT is Sunday morning service for. I think once you answer those to questions from a truly Biblical perspective you will realize that striving to keep your services to 1-hour is pathetic.

Allen Nelson

commented on May 24, 2011

I still think some people are missing the point here: SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP IS NOT FOR UNBELIEVERS. Do we expect them to come? Sure. I hope they do. Do we invite them to come? Certainly. The question "how long should a church service be" is really the wrong question. First you need to ask these 2 questions: WHO is Sunday morning service for and WHAT is Sunday morning service for. I think once you answer those to questions from a truly Biblical perspective you will realize that striving to keep your services to 1-hour is pathetic.

Allen Nelson

commented on May 24, 2011

I still think some people are missing the point here: SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP IS NOT FOR UNBELIEVERS. Do we expect them to come? Sure. I hope they do. Do we invite them to come? Certainly. The question "how long should a church service be" is really the wrong question. First you need to ask these 2 questions: WHO is Sunday morning service for and WHAT is Sunday morning service for. I think once you answer those to questions from a truly Biblical perspective you will realize that striving to keep your services to 1-hour is pathetic.

Anthony Lacy

commented on May 24, 2011

Surely, whenever believers meet be it Sunday morning /evening or mid week we still retain our mandate of being salt and light. To imply that Sunday morning is not for non Christians is to say that Sunday worship is exclusive. To be honest most unbelievers feel unconnected and bored when they go into the average Sunday morning service especially if it drags on. This is simply because not very much said or done is relevant to them. Many churches have developed Sunday morning into a spiritual exercise that has more to do with the felt needs of the believers and (sorry to say this) the roles of those who stand at the front and are seen by the rest of the church. This leads to an introspective local church culture which is ?safe? for Christians. However Acts 2:47 demonstrates the power of worship and witness by those who were a shining light in a dark place resulting in The Lord ?adding to the church?. It seems logical to me that people must have seen vibrancy and faith in worship (having favor with all the people) been attracted and by the Holy Spirit added to the church. I speak as one who has been on both sides of the fence and used to regularly preach for the best part of an hour. However I would no longer elongate services simply to make believers feel good. In our case now it is 1 hour and 15 minutes, and since we allowed ourselves to be challenged and dealt with the difficult decisions that had to be made the church has doubled in size, not with transfer growth either but new converts, and when do they first start coming? Sunday morning worship!

Robert Tarasiak

commented on May 24, 2011

Well written article, however I do not and will not suppress the holy Spirit in the way He leads the service. After all He should be leading and should NEVER be limited by a human clock or a pot roast in the oven! As a pastor, most of the services run from an hour and 15 to 1.5 hours. I even give time for testimonies and prayer. After all the believers are all part of the body. I also will switch my sermon on the fly to an evangelistic message if i see a visitor or guest in the service. I dislike ritualistic, liturgical services, leave this for the roman Catholic church and their "dead bone" services and people.

Allen Nelson

commented on May 24, 2011

I still think some people are missing the point here: SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP IS NOT FOR UNBELIEVERS. Do we expect them to come? Sure. I hope they do. Do we invite them to come? Certainly. The question "how long should a church service be" is really the wrong question. First you need to ask these 2 questions: WHO is Sunday morning service for and WHAT is Sunday morning service for. I think once you answer those to questions from a truly Biblical perspective you will realize that striving to keep your services to 1-hour is pathetic.

Allen Nelson

commented on May 24, 2011

I still think some people are missing the point here: SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP IS NOT FOR UNBELIEVERS. Do we expect them to come? Sure. I hope they do. Do we invite them to come? Certainly. The question "how long should a church service be" is really the wrong question. First you need to ask these 2 questions: WHO is Sunday morning service for and WHAT is Sunday morning service for. I think once you answer those to questions from a truly Biblical perspective you will realize that striving to keep your services to 1-hour is pathetic.

Robert Tarasiak

commented on May 24, 2011

Well written article, however I do not and will not suppress the holy Spirit in the way He leads the service. After all He should be leading and should NEVER be limited by a human clock or a pot roast in the oven! As a pastor, most of the services run from an hour and 15 to 1.5 hours. I even give time for testimonies and prayer. After all the believers are all part of the body. I also will switch my sermon on the fly to an evangelistic message if i see a visitor or guest in the service. I dislike ritualistic, liturgical services, leave this for the roman Catholic church and their "dead bone" services and people.

Anonymous

commented on May 24, 2011

You can always find examples that prove your point in our culture, so what about movies that are longer than an hour? Some are even up to 2 hours long? We would feel as if we didn't get our money's worth if it was too short. Why don't we just make sure we do a good job of what we are doing Sunday morning, worrying less about the specific time and more about giving people something that will really connect with them and them with God?

Anonymous

commented on May 24, 2011

You can always find examples that prove your point in our culture, so what about movies that are longer than an hour? Some are even up to 2 hours long? We would feel as if we didn't get our money's worth if it was too short. Why don't we just make sure we do a good job of what we are doing Sunday morning, worrying less about the specific time and more about giving people something that will really connect with them and them with God?

Paul Leitem

commented on May 25, 2011

Some have seeker-targetted services, some not, some have a blend. Our fellowship is mostly regulars w/ visitors each week. ... We DO hold it to an hour, which is new for me. I come from 2 previous churches where it was 90 mins. ... We do: opening call-to-worship song 3 mins prior to service start, announcements, 2-3 praise songs, greet each other, scripture reading, 2-3 worship songs, 30-min message. We get it all done and everyone is satisified -- even me, the musician/worship leader. I'm finding I'm enjoying doing less material rather than more. We can always reprise as the HS moves, but folks enjoy and I feel like I'm bringing the folks along in their worship. ... We do 2 services on Sunday with coffee fellowship inbetween, and 1 service on Sat eve. Also have adult SSchool and kids' church.

Robert Tarasiak

commented on May 25, 2011

Well written article, however I do not and will not suppress the holy Spirit in the way He leads the service. After all He should be leading and should NEVER be limited by a human clock or a pot roast in the oven! As a pastor, most of the services run from an hour and 15 to 1.5 hours. I even give time for testimonies and prayer. After all the believers are all part of the body. I also will switch my sermon on the fly to an evangelistic message if i see a visitor or guest in the service. I dislike ritualistic, liturgical services, leave this for the roman Catholic church and their "dead bone" services and people.

Matt Krachunis

commented on May 25, 2011

There are many things in our culture that last longer than an hour- 1. A movie 2. A theater production 3. A work day 4. A visit with a friend 5. A trip to the mall 6. An afternoon in the park 7. A bike ride 8. A morning commute to work. I mean this with all love and sincerity- if someone can't handle a service longer than an hour they can go and find a church that has one. We're not going to bend. People are getting saved in our church and there has never been a complaint about the length of our services.

Paul Leitem

commented on May 26, 2011

I hear Pastors and worship leaders talk about being "led by the Spirit" in services. That goes w/o saying. Like they're the only ones who are Spirit-sensitive. And the proof of that is in the length of their services, or the number of songs, or the amount of tongues, or whatever. We all have "a plan" for our services. We might say "we don't have a plan, we are Spirit led." Well, that IS your plan. We try to fold in as much content as we can. One might say, "90 mins... are you kidding. We're REALLY Spirit-led... we go 3 hours." How much is enough? Stop judging and try to cull from all this what you can. And, oh by the way, don't forget the childcare folks as the service rolls on and on.

Anonymous

commented on May 26, 2011

I think that if the service is extended because praise and worship is happening, then more time is warranted. If it's extended because of things going on that have nothing to do with God (i.e., tpoliticians, announcements, theme papers, anniversaries and presentations), then a changed could be warranted. The length of service should have a lot to do with what's happening during this time (God vs. tradition). We have a 2 hour service and it works for our congregation....we start on time and we are done on time and when its over we are in shock that 2 hours have passed already. So its what's going on in those hours no matter how many you have!

Paul Leitem

commented on May 27, 2011

Exactly. I think that is Dave's point - trim the fat. Many times something gets going and I check and 10-15 minutes has been consumed when 5 would have been better. Whatever our time utilized, just use it well and to God's glory.

Kenneth Grizzell

commented on Jun 1, 2011

I find it ironic, if not comical, that by far the longest article I have read on this website is about condensing the worship. Interesting...

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