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)
Falling asleep during a sermon or lecture has a long history. No matter how riveting the speaker or topic might be, drowsiness can get the better of us. In this episode, a young man is listening to Paul and what Paul was saying was doubtless helpful and insightful.
No doubt Eutychus was drowsy not just because of the lateness of the hour but because of the burning lamps contributing to the atmosphere. No doubt he really did want to hear from Paul, but even the best of speakers can overstay their welcome. And so the young man toppled to the ground below.
The story has a happy ending. The young man appeared to have died as a result of the fall but was in fact only stunned. He made a full recovery and Paul even got to finish his all night address, with his hearers no doubt staying well clear of open windows.
Perhaps the great apostle embraced the fallacy often embraced by church preachers. They reckon that the longer they speak the more truth they convey. In fact, there comes a time in any address where the law of diminishing returns kicks in. There is such a thing as going on too long and thus not getting the message across.
Speakers need to realise the listening capacity of the hearers may not be as great as their own speaking capacity. And if they do truly have a lot to say, as Paul did on his final visit to Ephesus, then move the crowd away from open windows and aim for a ground floor venue.