It’s an old story, but as one dear brother is wont to say, “I haven’t told it today.” The story goes that a young preacher and his wife were just beginning their journey as preacher and preacher’s wife. The young man prepared carefully, and the young wife adorned herself in great modesty: neither of them desirous of calling attention to themselves, but rather to present a very humble, yet loving appearance to the local work. He took his place in the front seat, but she shyly sat in the back. After some brief introductory remarks, he began his sermon and within ten minutes, the audience seemed to catch something from the corner of their eyes. In the back was the preacher’s wife holding a sign that read, “KISS.” “What a loving wife,” thought many as they perceived the sign, though unusual, to be an indication of affection and encouragement. Following the services, the women flocked the young wife and commended her for such a marvelous and vivacious demonstration of love and encouragement. The wife surprised them all when she replied, “Oh thank you for thinking this, but the sign was truly a reminder to my husband to keep it short and simple.”
Unfortunately, many desire this is the kind of “sign” regarding sermons. But as one preacher said, “Sermonettes preached by preacheretts, make Christianetts out of the brethren!” We even joke at times about Paul’s preaching until midnight (Acts 20:7) saying, “He surely didn’t start until 11:30.” Do they forget verse nine where Luke records, “as Paul was long preaching …” Many who don’t forget still mockingly say, “See, even Paul put folks to sleep when preaching too long!” Even then, they mock the reality of Paul’s continued preaching till break of day. (Acts 20:7 – 12)
The point of preaching the gospel is to feed souls with God’s truth. While primarily the elder’s job (Acts 20:28), gospel preachers must not refuse to impart the whole counsel of God to the hearers (Acts 20:27; 2 Timothy 4:1-8; 1 Corinthians 15:1; 1 John 1:5; et al). Preachers are the proclaimers of God’s truth (Romans 10:14 – 21). While there may be times when “short and simple” are adequate proclamations of God’s word, reality proves it usually takes time, and plenty of it, to impress souls of their responsibility toward the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We dare not think Philip required but a few minutes to teach the eunuch the meaning of Isaiah 53 (see Acts 8:26 – 40). It takes time to reason from, “Of whom does the prophet speak” to “here is water. What doeth hinder me to be baptized?” Think as well of the Philippian jailor (Acts 16:25 – 34). Did all that happen within a few minutes? Even the Lord devoted time to teaching. We surely don’t think He used but a few minutes with the woman at the well, do we? (John 4:1 – 42) Read verse 43 of that chapter and answer this: Why did He spend two more days in Samaria before going on to Galilee? Does preaching take time?
I appreciate the adages, “The sermon is good as long as the seat holds out,” and “sermons don’t have to be eternal to be immortal.” But let’s be serious: If we can devote two hours and more to a sporting event that doesn’t save anything, why can’t we spend more than an hour in the study of God’s word without complaint? (For those who know the joke in the first paragraph, you noted I changed the words just a bit. I don’t want anyone thinking preachers are stupid!) Preachers who are true preachers, don’t want to present “samplers” for sermons. They want to do what they can to fill hearts with the richness of God’s word and help develop a most fervent desire to search out the deep things of truth and righteousness; to fully engage the mind day and night in the meditation of God (1 Timothy 4:15).
Granted, some sermons are very tedious, perhaps “boring” due to the presentation and perhaps at times even the subject. Preachers need to know their audience and prepare for their abilities to comprehend what needs to be said. No preacher should ever try to impress the audience with this “over their heads” intellect, but instead “condescend to men of low estate” (Romans 12:16). In that sense, “KISS” is rightly directed. Still, there is a time for meat (Hebrews 5:12 – 14), and even then, knowing how great a serving to give must be considered by the giver! There’s no need to choke the souls who need to grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
There is another area of preaching that needs consideration: How much do the brethren take home from the lessons? Do they reflect on it daily, adding to it with their own study? Or do the brethren simply think preaching is something they need to endure during the service, then forget it and say they’ve worshipped God? Dedicated Christians realize it isn’t always what they SAY that encourages souls to come to Christ, but more often what Christians DO that encourages others to come to Christ. Visitors can tell when the audience has listened carefully and learned … or slept through the sermon. So can brethren who need to grow! How God’s word is received and retained is just as critical to preaching as the delivery of the sermon!
We’ll try “KISS;” yet the BEST sermons are KIND, INTERESTING, SAVING, AND SERIOUS. That’s the kind of living gesture and encouragement we need!