4th Commandment: Respect the time

4th Commandment: Respect the time

Our preaching and teaching will never be perfect. But can we be effective? That’s a noble aim.

“At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed.” (Acts 14:1 NIV11)

Point of clarification
Jesus spoke briefly on occasion, and at length on others (sermon on the mount; 3 days of teaching leading up to the feeding of the four thousand in Mark 8). Paul spoke for several hours in Acts 20:7. There is no such thing as a universally ideal length for a lesson. It all depends on the context and the skills of the speaker. Some people can be captivating for an hour. Some most certainly cannot. However, a wise speaker will have a sober estimate of their ability to hold an audience’s attention, and a healthy respect for the occasion and what is appropriate.

These tips will focus on helping us to speak, shorter rather than longer. Not because longer is worse than shorter, but because the tendency of my speakers is to go too long, rather than too short.

10 Tips to help you respect the time

  1. If you are a visiting speaker find out how long they want you to speak for
  2. If the venue is stuffy, hotter or colder than usual, err on the short side.
  3. Find out if something else is scheduled after your talk. Finish in good time so that event is not compromised.
  4. Be clear on your main point. Lessons tend to go long when we are not so clear why we are speaking and what our main point is.
  5. Leave your audience wanting more. People are rarely annoyed if speakers finish early. They are frequently annoyed if they finish late.
  6. Practice your talk. Time yourself.
  7. If your habit is to go too long listen to some of your previous talks and notice the kind of material you could cut out. Do you use more illustrations than necessary? Are you repeating yourself?
  8. Use a timer. Set an alarm on your watch or smart phone. Put it on the Lectern.
  9. Identify material in your presentation that you could cut out if necessary. Material which is not crucial to your main point. Then you will know which bits to skip if you need to.
  10. Pray to be disciplined and sensitive to your audience. It is their time, not yours. If you go 15 minutes too long, that’s only 15 minutes of your time, but if you are speaking to 40 people, that’s a total of 10 hours of their time you have taken up. Ask God to help you be submissive to the needs of your listeners, rather than in love with your own material.

I would like to know what you think of these ‘commandments’ and tips. What is missing? Which ones interest you the most?

Next week: 5th Commandment: Great learning is more important than great teaching.

Consider joining AIM UK&Ireland to develop your understanding of Scripture: https://aimukandireland.com/. Our next module is Homiletics (the preparation and delivery of lessons).

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Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, or practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

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“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)

God bless, Malcolm