Random thoughts on Church Service length

19 07 2012

This post is the conclusion from a series of blogs I wrote last year working on answering the question: How long should a church service be? You can see the whole blog series in .pdf format by clicking HERE. Probably would be helpful to read some of the other blogs in the above .pdf to understand the full context.

1.  How many churches are more concerned about the “time” issue than they are about answering the 3 foundational questions (Who and What are the services for? What elements should be included?)

Sadly, many churches (including leaders and members) are more concerned about their schedule than they are about what goes into a weekly gathering of Believers.  Immediately I think “big” churches come to mind here.  These churches may be televised or have multiple services and/or sites.  These churches are on a strict schedule and plan each segment of their service so that everything flows as smoothly as possible and they can finish on time.  Now, planning is not an evil thing!  I am certainly not advocating laziness in planning.  However, for these type of services how much freedom do we give the Holy Spirit?  It seems we’ve basically “planned” Him out of the way.

I said that “immediately” I think of big churches, but small churches are just as guilty.  The small church mentality  seems to be less planning and more “this is the way we’ve always done our services, why fix it?”  So, the small church has opening song, announcements, more songs, offering, special music, and then preaching. The schedule is not thought about or tweaked because it’s always been done that way.  For some small churches time may seem a non-issue, but mainly because for decades (or longer) it’s always been the same.  There’s no self-examination within the Body to see whether or not the services contain a healthy amount of prayer, scripture reading, singing, preaching, etc.

2. The “seeker sensitive” movement has gotten the church off track in regards to this issue

This too affects all sorts of churches.  We’ve been so concerned about creating an inviting, inoffensive atmosphere that we’ve lost track of who and what the service is for.  I want to put this proposition forward:  If the Word is being faithfully preached, and the people are faithfully receiving the Word, don’t you think the bathrooms are going to look respectable!?  In other words, the answer is not to make sure everything in the church is clean and inviting so that visitors will come back.  The answer is to faithfully PREACH THE WORD!  Heart change will affect our outward actions.  There is so much more I could write about this “seeker sensitive” topic.  Churches have forsaken corrective discipline, membership standards, etc. all for the sake of “reaching more people for Jesus.”  Where’s that got us?

3. The “attention span” argument doesn’t work

The human mind can only endure 15-20 minute sermons.  Or so all the “new research” suggests.  I have several problems with this argument.  1st- we live in a fallen world.  How many true Christians where surveyed in this research?  See, the Holy Spirit is “recreating” us!  We are being restored to the full image of Christ (this is called sanctification).  So, even if fallen man can only endure that much, I would have to think Christians can endure (and desire) more.  2nd-  How many college/university professors do you know cutting down their lectures based on this research?  There may be a few, but I’m saying the majority are not.  3rd-  Practically, this research doesn’t affect our entertainment world.  We’ll endure concerts, movies, sporting events, etc. for hours on end.

4.  Let’s remember Sunday is the Lord’s Day

Or it used to be.  Then it got knocked down to the Lord’s “Morning and Evening”.  Then it was moved back to the Lord’s “Morning”.  Now it’s just the Lord’s “1-hour or less”.  Yes, you should have time with your family on Sunday.  Yes, you should have time to rest on Sunday.  But the corporate gathering of believers is priority number one.  It is the ONE day that we set aside to gather with our church family.

Conclusion:

I know this post has been somewhat random in it’s ordering, so let me conclude with this.  The question “How long should a church service be?” should be irrelevant to mature believers.  There are certain priorities, and elements, the Bible commands us to pay attention to in our weekly gatherings- that is what should concern us, NOT the time.  How can the Body of Christ, with a straight face, spend hours every week in front of the television, sporting events, and other recreational activities, but complain about the extra 15 minutes at church?  Can we really faithfully fit all the elements we’ve discussed with the right priorities into a pre-packaged 1-hour service?

Let me conclude with 3 thoughts for church leaders:

1.  Do everything you can to NOT waste time during a service.  If your service is going long just because people aren’t prepared, and things are messing up with sound, media, etc. this is not good.  Cut out the time wasters.

2.  Don’t forget the Holy Spirit.  Yes, it’s good to plan, plan, plan.  Be disciplined in your preparation for Sunday mornings.  But don’t be so rigid that there is no room to adjust during the service.

3. Repent.  Let us repent and lead our people to repent of our concern for our own time.  May we be a people who will truly worship the Lord in Spirit and in Truth.

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