Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How to preach on time

The Primitive Methodist movement began to suffer from preachers and preaching that went on too long. This is what they did about it. The following rules were laid down for their Conference camp meeting in Hull, in 1830:

1. Each preaching service to be three quarters of an hour. …That two preachers should preach and be allowed to preach twenty minutes each, and not to exceed, unless sinners were actually falling down under the word. … Also not to use expressions such as – ‘My time is short’ … but keep to a form of sound words that cannot be reproved and make an honourable and useful conclusion.

2. That the conductor give each preacher a signal, by pressing the point of an umbrella, or something else against his foot, five minutes before his time is expired; and during that five minutes, if not before, he is advised to press a present faith, and a present salvation; and conclude, leaving such an impression as full and as strong as possible on the minds of the people.

3. That the conductor repeat the signal, if need be, when the time expires, and that then the preacher at once break off.

The Conference also made the following instruction: “Every travelling preacher who falls into piece sermoning, or who trespasses by long preaching, contrary to rule, shall forthwith have his salary lowered by ten shillings a quarter, and the ten shillings a quarter shall be put into the charitable fund.” According to my reckoning that is the best part of a weeks wages! Piece sermoning was the practice of promising to complete a sermon at a later time, (and usually failing to do so).

How about that for dealing with long-winded preachers? Try that next time a preacher goes on for too long!

“Memoirs of the Life and Labours of Hugh Bourne", Volume II, p207, 212, republished by Tentmaker Publications 121 Hartshill Rd, Stoke-on-Trent (http://www.tentmaker.org.uk/)

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