Dear Friends,

So, I came across an article in the newspaper not long ago with the title, "Does Your Pastor Preach Too Long?" I immediately stopped in my tracks and read it and took notes. In a massive study, the Pew Research Center analyzed the sermons posted on the websites of American churches from 4 Christian traditions. The researchers developed a database of almost 50,000 Sunday messages that were preached at over 6,400 churches.

Apparently, there is a wide variation in the length of sermons depending on the type of church you go to. So, for example, in Roman Catholic churches, sermons (often called "homilies") average about 14 minutes. In mainline Protestant churches (which is what United Methodists are generally considered), sermons average 25 minutes. In evangelical Protestant churches, sermons average 39 minutes. And in historically black Protestant churches, sermons average 54 minutes. Overall, the median length of all the sermons studied is 37 minutes, with a median word count of 5,500 words.

Without revealing too much about the usual timeframe and word count of my sermons, I think you might recognize that mine are on the shorter and lower end of the above scale. I can identify with one preacher who was quoted in the article as saying, "You can tell when people are ready for you to land the plane. There's nothing worse than listening to a plane come onto the runway and then take off again."

The reason I mention this is not just to give you a little information, but to remind you and remind myself of the purpose of a sermon. Of course, just as there are varying sermon lengths, there are varying definitions of what a sermon is intended to do. To me, a sermon is supposed to share the Gospel message of Jesus, to extend the Good News of salvation, and to offer the life-giving faith that comes from forgiving and being forgiven. As we sometimes say around here, the sermon, and everything we do as Christians and as a church, is intended to share God's grace and hope with everyone we can. A friend of mine who was a great preacher once said simply that a sermon is supposed to bless people.

So, here in the middle of Lent, let's resolve to do this, and to do it with all of our heart - to share God's grace and hope, to spread the saving gospel message of Jesus, and to bless as many people as we can.

Grace and Hope to you,

Pastor Duane