This December, I'll be spending the advent season with the good people of First Baptist Church. Their pastor is recovering from an operation, and I've always enjoyed filling in there (especially for advent).
Since I'm feeling pretty rusty in the pulpit (it's been 3 years since my early retirement from pastoral vocation) I thought I'd listen to a few old recordings of my advent sermons for some ideas.
When I was a pastor, I knew my sermons were too long. I'd always talk about it apologetically (probably hoping someone would be gracious enough to say -- "ohh..but *your* sermons are so interesting, I never notice the time...."), but I rarely demonstrated any progress in moving from 50 minutes to 30 minutes.
I'm sure I had an inflated sense of the importance of my words and the necessity for people to hear enough of them. I've since learned that every pastor has *someone* who will tell them that they aren't preaching too long. I guess that was all I needed. One person to stroke my ego while everyone else was over-informed, bored, or asleep.
From the age of 18 (part time youth pastor during college) until three years ago, there was no extended period of time when I was not in some form of church leadership (almost always vocational).
A "break" from that has given me some clarity on the matter.
And listening to my own sermons from 4 years ago, I'm once again reminded I owe lots of people lots of apologies.
If you were a victim of mine please accept my apology: I'm sorry.
PS. If you're a pastor, here's my suggestion:
Most sermons I hear actually contain 3-5 sermons.
Why not land on the first main idea that emerges?
Offer that idea from a few angles so that it connects with more of your audience.
Pose some questions to catalyze ongoing exploration.
Then give the idea some space to breathe.
Give it some time to find a place in the minds of the people who are listening.
Don't knock it loose with additional ideas.
Demonstrate your confidence in the text by resisting the urge to give it elaborate support.