May 19, 2020by Reverend Dan on May 19, 2020
“But the word of the Lord endures forever. This is the word that was preached to you.”
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8.25 seconds in 2015.
Wow. It seems we are an unfocused bunch, us humans. Our culture is so steeped in hundreds of things competing for our attention we are always distracted. One culture researcher calls it “continuous partial attention”. If you think it’s not true, look at the titles of three recent articles from the New York Times: “Addicted to Distraction”, “The End of Reflection”, and “Don’t Distract Me”. And it is no wonder. Recent statistics say that the average American receives 54,000 words and 443 minutes of video on social media EVERY DAY. No wonder we can’t stay focused.
Living in this culture has made writing sermons hard. People don’t have the attention span to finish watching a commercial, so how can I capture their attention and keep it long enough to share God’s Word? How can I keep people engaged for 20 minutes? How can even I – a tech-savvy preacher (my kids and wife are rolling in the floor laughing at the “tech-savvy” comment) – how can I engage in a scripture that will keep the attention of a world with ADD?
I saw only one way. Preach longer. Go deeper into scripture. I know that sounds counterintuitive – going against the flow – but hear me out, because it has worked.
One year ago, I decided to shorten other parts of the service to give me more time to preach. I knew I wasn’t giving the scripture I was preaching it’s due, so I took this crazy idea of lengthening the sermon and implemented it. Since then, my sermons have become infinitely richer and they better honor the scripture. The church members say so, the peer group I’m in that critique each other’s sermons says so, and I feel so. There’s a peace that says. “you gave it what it deserved”.
I spend a lot longer on sermon preparation now. I read the text. Then I read it again. Then I read it slower. I research more. I spend more time marinating the topic. But most of all, I pray more. I get in God’s presence and just listen. You see, I’ve realized that deep preaching doesn’t come from a great homiletics professor or class. It doesn’t come from amazing oratory skills. It doesn’t even come from great illustrations or stories. They may all help, but effective preaching comes from a heart that allows God to speak to it.
Instead of 20 minutes, I now preach 30 minutes. And I have found that in our distracted culture, it works because people are hungering for something deeper. They crave the depth. Sure, I still have my “nodders”. A long week at work, a busy Saturday, a big Sunday breakfast, a warm room and a soft cushion – the perfect storm for a nap. But the overwhelming response has been more engagement from the listeners, more interactions during the week about the topic, and those critical and all-important affirmative nods during the sermon.
When you’re studying the Bible, don’t cheat the scripture by staying on the surface with a cursory reading, thinking you already know what it means. Go deeper. You’ll be surprised at the world that is opened up by doing so.
“Father, Thank You for Your Word which speaks to us in new ways every time we read it. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”