How long should the sermon be? Some might respond, coyly, "Shorter." I would simply say it isn't a matter of longer or shorter…it's a matter of "better." In most of the largest and fastest growing churches, sermons are actually much longer. However, as you might expect, the sermons are also generally much better. I define "better" as Christ-centered, relevant, textually faithful, and yes, even entertaining–that is…they hold the listener's attention throughout.
Sermons offer great potential to teach, ignite, focus, and call God's people. They shouldn't be cast aside or taken lightly–even in situations in which the sermon comes through a struggling communicator. Effective preachers should be thanked and encouraged to keep growing, and those who pay little attention to their sermons should be encouraged to start growing. Those who put in the preparation and struggle with communication should seek help there. Some strong communicators who preach cotton candy sermons that need to seek substance and genuine spiritual impact.
Whatever your lot as a communicator, keep working at it. Don't feel obligated to go 45 minutes or an hour. If you have 20 minutes of good material…preach that. If you need an hour, ask for it, and use it well. My experience has been that people will sit gladly for an hour or twenty minutes of preaching provided they it's worthwhile.
T. David Gordon, in his somewhat cynical but helpful little book, Why Johnny Can't Preach, has it about right:
"I realized then that sermon length is not measured in minutes; it is measured in minutes-beyond-interest, in the amount of time the minister continues to preach after he has lost the interest of his hearers (assuming he ever kindled it in the first place)."
Preaching should take as much time as it should. No less and no more. For me, that's typically 30-35 minutes.
What is it for you either as a preacher or hearer? Do you think a sermon should have a set length? If so, what is it?