The Longest 45 Minutes in the Week

Preaching is a very nuanced style of speech. Typically, sermons are structured around a standardized set of themes, components and conclusions. It has always amazed me how people gauge a sermon’s quality based on a sort of oral tradition standard that we pick up by osmosis from years of church-going.

Originally, Christian worship had very little in the way of ‘preaching’ because preaching was the proclamation of the gospel done outside the church’s worship on Sunday. Instead, the bishop/priest of churches would share brief homilies on passages of Scripture, usually from the Psalms or the Epistles.

The Protestant Reformation changed this dramatically. Preachers like John Calvin and Martin Luther were highly in demand for their speaking skills (both were teachers at prominent universities as well as being priests) and in the new academic climate of Europe in that period, their style was copied.

This was further propounded during the Great Awakening a couple centuries later, the American church really latched onto preaching. Add to this that men like Charles Spurgeon and D. L. Moody had their sermons published worldwide and you can see that preaching became a very big deal in the Western protestant churches.

Unfortunately, men like Calvin, Luther, Spurgeon and Moody are exceedingly rare. Most pastors are not gifted or trained speakers. The only thing they know of presentation is the expected components. They assemble messages according to the unconscious template that the congregation expects, and in a sort of self-licking ice cream cone thing, the congregation’s expectations are confirmed as the preacher’s template is ensconced.

And that is why you sit through 45 minutes of a message that may or may not have any meaning in your life.

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