Read Acts 20:7-12
7-10 On the first day of the week, when we were assembled for the breaking of bread, Paul, since he intended to leave on the following day, began to speak to them and prolonged his address until almost midnight. There were a great many lamps burning in the upper room where we met, and a young man called Eutychus who was sitting on the window-sill fell asleep as Paul’s address became longer and longer. Finally, completely overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground from the third storey and was picked up as dead. But Paul went down, bent over him and holding him gently in his arms, said, “Don’t be alarmed; he is still alive.”
11-12 Then he went upstairs again and, when they had broken bread and eaten, continued a long earnest talk with them until daybreak, and so finally departed. As for the boy, they took him home alive, feeling immeasurably relieved. (JBP)
This passage gives us one reason not to preach long sermons: it can be life threatening! And the more obvious lesson: don’t sit on window sills if someone looks like preaching at length.
On a more serious note, we can well understand the desire of Paul to make the most of his time with his church and expand at length on the truths of the faith. We can assume that, unlike poor Eutychus, they stayed awake and stayed well away from window sills and so benefitted from his teaching.
Sadly, in our day the boring and overlong preacher is a reality and not a myth. Some preachers mistakenly believe that the longer they preach the more information they communicate and so the better disciples their hearers become. But length does not mean substance. And preaching is more than mere communication of information.
Preaching has been defined as the communication of truth through personality. A preacher’s personality is not to be buried in the interests of objective truth. He or she will recognise that preaching is intensely personal even as it points to something and someone beyond that one individual. Preaching is to engage with the hearers and equip them to better live their often troubled and uncertain lives.
If these hearers merely needed information they could just as well read a book as hear a sermon. They need truth, but truth that comes through a person. They need truth on Sunday that will help them face Monday.