Sunday, November 03, 2013

Spurgeon on Effective Preaching

A great deal of (poor) sermonizing may be defined as saying nothing at extreme length; verbosity is not to be admired, you must say something and be done with it. "Cut it short, old boy," is a very common admonition, and I wish the presenters of this free advice could let it be heard inside Bethel and Zoar and some other places sacred to long-winded orations. To dwell long on a point will never do. Reasoning must be brief, clear, and soon done with. The discourse must not be labored or involved, neither must the second head depend upon the first, for the audience is a changing one, and each point must be complete in itself. The chain of thought must be taken to pieces, and each link melted down and turned into bullets: you need not Saladin's sabre to cut through a muslin handkerchief as much as you need Coeur de Lion's battle-ax to break a bar of iron. Come to the point at once, and come there with all your might.


Victorious said...

Wise words, me thinks!

Personally, I also think sermons ought to "stretch" those who hear it.

Dr. Iverna Tomkins was preaching at our church years ago and said that while preparing her message, while she felt it was from the Holy Spirit, thought it was too complicated for the congregation to grasp in a short time. She heard the Lord say in response, "don't worry; they'll reach up and grab it!"

I never forgot that. If the sheep are to mature, they need to hear the meat of the gospel not just the milk.

Wade Burleson said...

Good point, Victorious.

Technically, Spurgeon was speaking of evangelistic preaching instead of biblical teaching.

I agree with you wholeheartedly.

Bob Cleveland said...

I've always heard "Stand up to be seen, speak up to be heard, and shut up to be appreciated".

Or maybe simply .. don't preach through too many good stopping points.

Wade Burleson said...

That's funny Bob! :)

Anonymous said...

Mind you, Spurgeon could have done with a good dose of his own medicine, at times !


Rex Ray said...


Good words!

Another: “Don’t beat a dead horse to death.”

Besides taking twice the time, preaching through interpreters causes other problems. Jokes don’t go over to foreigners. Before my uncle learned Chinese, the interpreter said, “Preacher tried to say something funny; please laugh.”

With age, there is a memory problem. My dad talked so long by the time the interpreter finished, he forgot what he was saying. Mother said he preached from Genesis to Revelation.

With poor vision, my dad had mother sit on the front row, and when it was time to close, she would raise her Bible. Once, she stood and waved it back and forth.

Anonymous said...

Wondering if you'd care to comment about how Spurgeon commenting upon 'to the point' and brevity within sermons fits BOTH the times within which he spoke, as well as current times. With you being the historian I know you are, the Lincoln-Douglas debates 25-30 years prior to Spurgeon were major day-long events, with each debater speaking for hours followed by a supper break. Though I'm less familiar with sermon lengths of the late 1800s, my perception is that Spurgeon would preach for 50-80 min. Nowadays, our mainstream congregations and the soundbite cultures that they occupy dictate that a speaker going longer than 18-20 minutes is ill prepared at best and boring at worst. Brevity for Spurgeon might have meant 30 minutes; brevity for the 2013 American might imply 8-9 minutes. Can you help me square those two disparate concepts??

Tim Snider in Glencoe

Wade Burleson said...


Excellent points.

Don't know that I can square them.

Frankly, I would have much rather lived in the day when 45 minutes was considered brief than the McMessage days of today when 8 to 9 minutes is considered brief.

Rex Ray said...

How long was the sermon when one man fell from the rafters? :)

Christiane said...

A brief sermon in a picture:

‘Love always protects . . . ‘ (from 1 Cor 13)

Rex Ray said...


You seem to always show the best.

The picture reveals an old thankful heart expressing itself to a young caring heart.

Speaking of age, this will make us ‘mature’ people laugh: