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 sermons apparently has a long history. Some sermons have great sedative power. Even the great Apostle Paul wasn’t able to engage Eutychus for too long. While it seems Paul had his reasons for going on so long (note that even after Eutychus was revived he kept on talking!),many preachers still tend to confuse length with profundity. The more they say the more people learn.
This is not necessarily so. And besides,a good sermon is not just about communicating facts and information: it is about inspiring people to act,to respond. The Word of God is powerful and life-changing. The message from it is of life-and-death importance. So when people are thoroughly bored by a bible talk something has gone seriously wrong.
Preachers need to ‘live in the house of their preaching’,they need to be personally engaging with their subject matter and personally engaging with those who hear the sermon. A preacher needs to not only study books but people. Too much time in front of a computer or at a desk might mean not much time interacting with people. Little wonder some preaching is of the ‘so what?’ variety. Lots of information and undoubted orthodoxy but little apparent power or relevance to life.
Many years ago as a child I and other children were ushered out of our church prior to the sermon. For many years,that word ‘sermon’ indicated something forbidding,something terribly complex and advanced. May it not be so for us grownups. May our preachers not bore us silly. May the hearers seek to discern the life-changing words of the living God.