During yesterday’s message at our home church, Agape Fellowship, I was initially going to cover 10 verses in the book of James (our current series.) Getting deeper into the message, I realized that there was no way to adequately cover all ten verses, so I cut it down to TWO verses: James 1:26-27. Going further still, it became apparent that just focusing on ONE verse (James 1:26) was quite enough for one message, and that verse alone could be turned into ten more, so the message was cut down. Why not teach through all ten verses? I am beginning to realize that sometimes, even often, shorter IS better! Think about it: Jesus spent somewhere between 2-4 years teaching His disciples. Based on the written teachings of Jesus in the New Testament, He probably could have covered that material quite easily in less than two weeks. However, so much dense and wonderful teaching compacted into such a little time frame would have allowed the disciples no time to process, to ponder, to mull over the Word, and for it to go deep and bear fruit. (See Mark 4, the parable of the sower.)
Like getting overstuffed at a meal, sometimes too much truth in one serving can cause bloating, pain, and immobility. As Paul said, “Knowledge PUFFS up, but loves BUILDS up.” Similarly, James has noted that truth must be DONE and not just heard – James 1:22. In the past, I’ve been known to go a little long in preaching and writing. In the future, I intend to prune more. Not because I value preaching or writing less. Not because I value the Bible less. Not because I value truth less. Nor because I believe that the people at our church need less biblical instruction, but precisely because I do value the Word and Biblical preaching, I intend to preach and write in shorter bursts in 2017. May the Word bear fruit!
“LONG visits, long stories, long essays, long exhortations, and long prayers, seldom profit those who have to do with them. Life is short. Time is short. Moments are precious. Learn to condense, abridge, and intensify. We can bear things that are dull, if they are only short. We can endure many an ache and ill, if it is over soon; while even pleasure grows insipid, and pain intolerable, if they are protracted beyond the limits of reason and convenience. Learn to be short. In making a statement, lop off branches; stick to the main facts in your case. If you pray, ask for what you believe you will receive, and get through; if you speak, tell your message and hold your peace; if you write, boil down two sentences into one, and three words into two. Always when practicable avoid lengthiness—learn to be short.”
Charles Spurgeon, The Sword and Trowel: 1871 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1871), 76. Spurgeon wrote over 140 books, and sometimes wrote hundreds of personal letters a week.