One word…? Really?
This is what I was thinking following a conversation I had a few years back. After discussing the sermon preached, my counterpart in the conversation concluded that it was far too long (over 20 minutes) and too scattered (3 points). Finally he declared, “I think each message should focus in on one word…ya know…one push and that’s it.”
Now initially my reaction was to agree. Each sermon or message should have a specific thrust and focus, however, what became all too apparent in our conversation was that what he wanted was short, simple, and immediately applicable. I admit also that I enjoy a message that (due to the thrust of the biblical text) gives an immediate application. It’s helpful and encouraging and easy to remember throughout the week. Sometimes, after all, the most applicable lessons are the one liners from dad or grandpa quoting scripture out next to the shed.
Where I must disagree though is with his underlying premise. He admitted to me in the conversation that his reasoning began by determining that people cannot remember more than one word. Therefore, anything else would be a waste of time and breath. I immediately and concretely concluded myself that there must be….MUST BE…responsibility within the church placed on the listener as well as the speaker.
We have greatly underestimated the human mind’s capacity for retaining information. We’ve become so accustomed to having information thrown at us in quick two minute YouTube videos that our attention span collectively is not as it should be, but if we’re honest, not really what it actually is capable of. We memorize songs, movies (ENTIRE MOVIES), without even trying. We’ll sit through an entire football game, movie, or comedian, all of which are much longer and MUCH more intricate than most messages or sermons we’re exposed to week in and week out.
The Psalms pour forth David’s heart for God’s word. He has an extreme desire to listen, learn, be filled. And that’s just it isn’t it. We don’t want fulfillment, we want entertainment. The dramatic irony of that is that if we were to listen, truly pay attention, what we would find in God’s word is the most entertaining story ever told. But we must come taste and see that the Lord is good.
As pastors present sermons and messages to us, it is not wrong to hold them accountable to communicating effectively. However, if our main criterion are short, simple, immediately applicable; then perhaps we’ve missed the point. There should be a push for one message, one stress, one focus, one word. But he has a name. Jesus. And what goodness and mercy he would share with his people is far greater than 20 minutes once a week 15 of which is a “good story”. We must discipline ourselves to sit and listen as the disciples did in acts as they submitted themselves to the apostles teaching. Be attentive. Be a listener. Be a learner of the one and only word of truth.