Pastor, Your Sermon Is Too Short!

Derek Ouellette —  May 9, 2010

David Platt, pastor of Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, while traveling to underground Asian house churches discovered that they “study the Bible together, under the threat of persecution, for as long as 12 hours in one sitting.”[1]

Yes, I did say twelve hours of bible study. Can you imagine anything akin to this in America?

Well David could. In fact, he not only made it happen, but he made it popular too. So popular in fact that if you wish to attend what he refers to as “Secret Church” you need to purchase a ticket at $5 a pop (evidently to cover study material costs).

According to the Christianity Today article where I first heard of this story, “Platt preaches for six hours on a single topic, such as a survey of the Old Testament. About 1,000 people, mostly college students and young singles, turned out for the first Secret Church.”

The amount of people who now attend the Secret Church numbers around 2,500 and the topics have included the Atonement and Spiritual Warfare. The next Secret Church will be in October 2010.

When I read this story it made me think, maybe people don’t really want shorter services and fluffy sermons, maybe what people want – what they crave – is a reason to go deeper.

I attended a particular church for a brief period of time and discovered early on that this church had a reputation of believing in longer services and longer sermons. If a guest preacher from out of town came in and only preached for 45 minutes to an hour, the pastor felt the need to conclude the guest’s sermon by adding an additional hour or so footnote. People hated it.  They often complained. Grumbled. Slept. Or left the church always looking back and remembering how boring services were there. This is not what I mean when I say maybe people want longer services to go deeper. This is simply preaching long for the sake of believing in being long-winded. It didn’t help the churches case much that it was essentially a fundamentalist church – simplemindedness, lack of depth, dogmatic in areas that should not be dogmatic (such as bible translations and eschatology) and often legalistic, but lacking in good exegesis and failing to communicate the complexities of the metanarrative of the scriptures.

It’s not that people want or don’t want shorter services; it’s that people want a reason to go deeper. Maybe people want the Bible to make sense to them. Maybe they want to understand the big picture and not just the “moral stories” gathered from Old Testament characters or “how to” antidotes from New Testament “commandments”.

A friend of mine has weekly bible studies were its not unusual for someone new to comment in frustration, “Why aren’t we being taught this in church?”

It’s a good question.

[1] Christianity Today (ct) , May 2010

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
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  • Geneinne

    Mostly college students and young singles as they didn’t have screaming children at their legs to feed and take care of and jobs that they had to go to. I’m not saying that college students and young singles do have active, demanding jobs but that those who stayed had to have had some leeway in their personal life. Unfortunately, I belonged to a church that for a time encouraged longer services when speakers came in. There theroy was that if God was in the service that children in children’s church would just miraculously be good! As I was one of those workers in children’s church that pretty much tells me that God was never present or these classroom full of hungry, tired children did recognize the ‘moving’ of the spirit! The early church met for hours but in houses and I’d be willing to bet that there were many ‘Marth’s’ in the group who fed, intertained and put to sleep the little ones.