Back in the 1800’s, especially before Lincoln’s War, it was common for preachers to speak for over an hour. Two hours was common according to one book I read. I am not sure that most people can handle that long of a lesson these days. Most people watch television. Television has 30 minute and 60 minute programs. Even those times are subdivided into smaller segments by commercials. With the obvious exception of movies most people are not used to having very long attention spans.
We have heard a few preachers lately that have been rather long. One went for an hour and one went for an hour and a half. The one that preached for an hour had about three hours worth of material. The sad part is that because he had so much information he had to edit it as he went to try to fit his lesson in the allotted time. He put all that information in to his lesson because he thought it was important. I wonder if he ever goes back and fills everyone in on what they missed? He had a time limit and had no choice. Of course the simple solution is to create three lessons. That way nothing gets missed or skipped. If what one has to say is important enough to put in a lesson, then would it not be wise to be sure that those who you wish to hear the information actually get to hear it? Break those lessons up into shorter ones.
The preacher that went for an hour and a half had no time limit. The problem with his lesson was that he covered so much ground that by the end of the first hour I was thinking, “How did he get on this subject?” He had started elsewhere. I was under the impression that he had intended to speak on a subject that he was not covering at about the hour mark. In other words his lesson was so long with so much varied material that even those of us who were trying to follow him were unable to do so.
Both of the preachers speak regularly. I know that one of them was trained in a major denomination’s school. One of the Bible department teachers at the Christian school I attended had a 3 point rule. For some speakers that would probably be a nice guideline and a welcome aid to those listening.
Probably the best thing to do overall is look at what one has to say and subdivide it down into segments that might take thirty minutes. That way there is room for ad-libbing, adding comments and even going on a rabbit trail or two. Just be careful not to let the additions make it into an hour plus lesson!
I knew one elder at a church that said if it couldn’t be said in 15 or 20 minutes then it was too much. I think that is an extreme on the short side, but he had a point.