this cartoon is inspired by a recent rant from joe. thus proving it is never to late to make a contribution here at asbo. :-)

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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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70 Responses to 475

  1. It’s generally preferable when the person sharing says and “In conclusion” so that they conclude, rather than saying “Lastly” and lasting…

  2. maxplanck says:

    I think, and I may be wrong, a sermon should be about making only one point, and making it very clearly…

  3. Forrest says:

    As much as there’s hope that it’s his “Final” point, there’s resignation that it’s more realistically his final point this time.

  4. jonbirch says:

    hahaha! :-)

    i do wonder, if someone needs to say… ‘and in conclusion’, or ‘and finally’… they already know they’ve gone on too long. :-) there’s nothing ruder than people spouting all the stuff they ‘know’ at you!
    does that count as a rant? :-)

  5. Heather says:

    I’m still in awe that people can actually speak in front of a room of people for 45 minutes!


    But there are several times when I’ve uttered a silent “Phew” myself at hearing somebody wrapping it up. I guess if people can’t clearly convey a point, principle, scripture exegesis or anything else within 20 or 30 minutes, they could probably work on their presentation a little more. :-)

  6. dadube says:

    I always think its a skill when someone can get the sermon down to 10-15 minutes … and I come out of church so much happier :)

  7. Will says:

    there are some people that i have listened to for an hour and it has felt like 10 minutes and some that have talked for 15 minutes and it has felt like an hour. for me, it is abut how the person engages, and the subject matter.

  8. Andrew says:

    I’m sure someone once said something along the lines of “I’m sorry it was a long sermon; I didn’t have time to prepare a short one.”

    I know that to be true for myself, too often…

  9. Carole says:

    Well said, Will.

    I wonder if it has anything to do with having space to fill? In my last job I used to proofread school reports. In the past, they were hand-written so you would get about 4 or 5 sentences, perhaps more or less depending on handwriting size. Then they introduced electronic reporting. Now this gave people a box to type into and text was set at Times New Roman 10 or 11 pt. People felt the need to fill the box so we ended up with War and Peace for every subject. When speaking, people probably plan for a 15 min block, but by the time they’ve put in natural pauses, improvised a bit and speeded up through nerves, it probably ends up double that. Or, in the case of our new priest, you plan for 5 mins, say it in 5 mins then repeat the same thing, mantra-like but v-e-r-y, v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, until you have 15 mins…

    Yes, Will, engagement is the key.

  10. Carole says:

    Since when has speeding up led to things taking longer? derr! I must be thinking of Virgin trains… Pass me some more caffeine! :)

  11. subo says:

    it’s when the speaker ambles up to the front so slowly, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s winding down and plodding off to bed.

    as he fudges his way into his first point, I’ve already creased up into a ball of rage

  12. Will says:

    one of the things i have found is that some speakers can talk very quickly and don’t leave space for people to take in things. I find that for me when i talk at church i will be approximately 20 mins – which i guess is about 15 mins of material, and 5 mins of pauses and obviously space for laughter at my hilarious jokes! ;)

  13. Carole says:


  14. Carole says:


  15. Sarah B says:

    I remember someone once using the phrase “fifteenthly” which REALLY made it feel long but it was in a lecture not a sermon. Of course if you play the sermon game it can make any sermon interesting :o)

  16. Carole says:

    SarahB, is that a bit like bullsh*t bingo?

  17. Clare says:

    What I find difficult about sermons is not the length but the format, which does not (usually) allow you to stand up and say “actually, I’d like to debate that point with you”. I guess I’m just not that good at accepting things without some discussion. But why can’t it be more like question time and less like school?

  18. Mark Burgess says:

    I guess a lot of it can depend on the relevancy of what is being said – Jesus’ sermon on the mount said some big things – made some people angry, made some people stand in total awe and wonder (especially the cheesemakers!)

    For a lot of people – certainly the same is true for me – listening for a longer period can be difficult due to my natural learning style. There’s a good ancient proverb which goes: “If I hear, I forget. If I see, I remember. If I do, I understand.” I think there’s a lot of merit in that statement.

    One other question that comes to mind when thinking about sermons/homegroup is which is for the deeper ‘feeding’ and which is the point where Christians (and non-Christians?) come together to share fellowship with others as the one body we are supposed to be. My theory is homegroup is a place to really grapple with the bigger issues – in a space where it is safe to discuss – even argue (I use that word in a positive way) with each other – to challenge and be challenged and, hopefully, go away changed somehow.

    I guess if homegroups are like that then it’s all too easy for a sermon in church to become quite wishy-washy, which isn’t good.

    I do all age talks sometimes – which usually involve participation from others in some way – I think these sort of things can have more impact not just because they are shorter, but because various learning styles are taken into consideration, and it enables people to experience somehow, not just hear.

    Okay, I shall end now as this looks like it’s turning into a sermon!

  19. zefi says:

    “But why can’t it be more like question time and less like school?”

    THAT MUST NOT HAPPEN! Unlike you, we just wanna fulfill our weekly Christian obligation by getting our seats warmed up, and after that leave.

    If there’s a discussion time, we’ll have to stay longer! GAH, THE VERY THOUGHT OF IT…!!!

    But you can always create your own discussion group. ;)

  20. Mark Burgess says:

    Clare (and others) maybe we should all make a conscious decision to ‘put our hands up’ at some point during a sermon in the next couple of months – particularly if people can get a few others in their respective churches to be prepared to do the same – if there is something we don’t agree with or understand.

    One of my lecturers at uni used to say, “do it once, do it twice, then it’s a tradition” – hmmm, maybe we can add some new tradition to our churches?!

    Mind you, I guess we have to be careful not to turn things into a weekly cat fight, and whatever is said or asked, and however it is dealt with, we must make sure it is done for good reason, and (genuinely) lovingly.


  21. Carole says:

    Possibly it is because I’m from a tradition in which the sermon is not valued as highly as in most churches, I actually quite like to listen to someone speak. It’s good to hear where others are coming from. And there’s the rub. The difficulty I have is when they give a preamble that goes, “I asked God for something to say to you and he gave me this”. Who do you think you are, mate, bleedin’ Isaiah? In effect, the speaker devolves any responsibility for the quality of their message to God. If it’s crap, give God a bit of constructive feedback…if you dare.

    I don’t think any speaker is so inspired that the content of their talk is not tainted just slightly with his/her own agenda. But undoubtedly some agendas are a lot more self-centred than others.

    Interestingly, I once heard Richard Rohr say something like ‘all cognition is re-cognition’. Rightly or wrongly, I took that to mean that when we listen to a speaker, we acknowledge/recognise that which we already know, deep down, as true, whether we were aware of it or not. It strikes a chord with us. I will probably enjoy listening to someone speak more if their agenda reinforces my own.

  22. Joe says:

    I can’t remember the last time I actually sat through a church sermon.

    But a mate of mine recently lent me a preaching CD that he thought I might ‘get something’ from. Cool, I thought… something for the car. After all, there’s only so much High School Musical a dad can take.

    The first twenty minutes were excruciating as the speaker went through his warm-up routine: “Turn to someone and say…”, “Say after me…”, or “How many people know that…” I can think of some wonderful responses to these…

    I lost count of the number of times I had to stop the CD as I thought I might keel over and die at any moment. “I can’t do this… it’s too much” I kept thinking. But I also reasoned that a lot of the stuff was just Christian culture and that I should keep going… Of course, it didn’t help that the guy kept slipping into a mock American accent when he was plainly from somewhere near Rochdale; in fairness, I later discovered that he had in fact relocated to the States a couple of weeks earlier.

    Anyway, I’m glad I kept going because my mate was right; I really did get something from the sermon. Now, when I feel the need to meditate on that ‘something’ I can go straight to track 10!

    Thank god for CDs.

  23. AnneDroid says:

    I really love listening to a good sermon, one which teaches me a bit of Bible stuff but also gives me application for today.

    Perhaps the unpopularity with some of the sermon comes from:
    – either the latest fashion of seemingly endless worship at the beginning of the service (let’s sing it again..and again.. and now let’s sing it ad nauseam)
    – or the fact we’re in a tv rather than radio age and aren’t used to listening now (personally when I preach I favour using powerpoint slides to give folk something to do with their eyes)

    They say we learn 80% from the visual and 20% from what we hear. This is another reason I favour powerpoint slides, but with or without them I also try and use lots of word pictures, stories and verbal illustrations. I stole this idea from Jesus.

    Jokes help too. They help me too as the preacher. If I make one and there’s no response I recognise they’ve already switched off!

    As far as arguing or debating is concerned, I believe the home group is the place for that. I think we need that but I also think it’s good for those of us (and I include myself) who can be a wee bit smarty-pants at times to humble ourselves and consider the possiblility that the preacher may actually, yes, really, be loved and chosen by God and asked to deliver a message inspired by God which I do well to listen to with a humble open spirit.


  24. Will says:

    at our church we occasionally have a 5 or 10 minute intro to a subject then let people get around tables and thrash out the ideas – a great way of learning.

    I know i have alway got more from a group back in Bath called bunions. Bunch of blokes, pub, beer, space to bring something and safety to do so. A real mix of wisdom, insight and love from a great group of people that i sorely miss. This is sometimes where i got my learning from, and kept me in touch with God when i didn’t fit church.

    I’m sure the beer helped. (Badgers i think it was called) :)

  25. Carole says:


    Great idea. I would like to do something like that.

  26. Free to think, free to believe... says:

    Just as a starter for no 20 – Why do you go? It should not be to merely fulfill obligation…

    One of the things that I find depressing is that a lot of vicars/preachers and whatever have virtually abandoned sermons as a vehicle for really exploring issues – I don’t want a round up of how christian spirituality can be compared to football so we can all be included…

    We may have differing learning styles but we can learn other ways of learning…

    The question is fundamentally about ‘who’ we see the strange thing in the front – if priest as substitute for God then the role only carries ritual meaning and they may as well not bother – if pastor then it’s an opportunity for everyone to feel that the pastor is looking out for them and a small message on this line would be then fine – if evangelist then a ‘pep-talk’ – if, on the other hand a ‘teacher’ then should they not teach and should we not try to learn?

    Apologies for the rambling on and on and….

  27. zefi says:

    “It should not be to merely fulfill obligation…”

    Really? Says who?

    Sometimes I find the people of this generation funny.

    The fact that I’m doing something when I have the full capability to not do it is not enough. I have to WANT TO DO IT.

    Geez, greedy people. But I love em still. :)

    “Clare (and others) maybe we should all make a conscious decision to ‘put our hands up’ at some point during a sermon in the next couple of months – particularly if people can get a few others in their respective churches to be prepared to do the same – if there is something we don’t agree with or understand.”

    Gone are the mega churches! ARR! :)

  28. Well, there’s also the Acrostic Sermon…as in “Jesus was clearly saying here that we need to…”

    * Abuse* the text

    * Always* make the point of the Scripture fit our acrynom

    * Accept* that the sermon will go on longer if the speaker has a thesaurus

    * Ask * why the sermon is brought to you by Sesame Street and the letter A

  29. Chris F says:

    Ha ha 29!

    Recently I heard an older man justify long sermons on the basis they are biblical – he quoted “Could you not watch with me one hour?”

    Was he doing this tongue in cheek? Fraid not (no sense of humour either)


  30. Clare says:

    24. I went to a home group once…
    maybe that’s my problem!
    I am probably especially arrogant but I often find myself annoyed to be having to listen silently to someone who doesn’t appear to have thought as much about their subject as I have. 21. Like the idea but I probably wouldn’t ever do it. I am a) too British and b) too worried about making the preacher feel uncomfortable/undermined.

  31. jonbirch says:

    you, darling? …especially arrogant? …surely not!!! :-) :-) :-)

  32. janetp says:

    We’re very lucky in my church to have a thoughtful, intelligent preacher who not only knows his stuff when it comes to the Christian message, but a lot of other stuff besides, all of which he manages to weave seamlessly into 20 minutes of informative, thought-provoking teaching with something for everyone. I think he’s probably an alien.

  33. “A word is worth one coin; silence is worth two.” – Talmud

  34. jonbirch says:

    i like the sound of your alien vicar janetp… comes to something when we have to rely on beings from other planets to inform and teach us. in the immortal words from ‘the day the earth stood still’,”Klatu Barada Nikto”… :-)

    mr. nighttime… ‘a picture is worth a thousand words!’… i win! :-)

  35. “mr. nighttime… ‘a picture is worth a thousand words!’… i win! :-)”

    Remember, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas…. ;-)

  36. gilly says:

    but doesn’t everyone take a good book to church…for just these times?

  37. TyTe says:

    he he he – I’m reading this blog as I think about my sermon for Sunday. I’m scared ****less now! lol

    I feel quite a weight of burden and responsibility when I get up to speak. I know I don’t know even half of it. There are way better teachers than me. There are prolly better podcasts out there on the subject. My talk has to connect and be relevant across genders, generations, educational abilities, and social backgrounds. It can feel pretty daunting.

    As a teacher, I know that most people learn by doing. I like inviting people to join in with the Kingdom rather than getting them to listen to a talk and arrive at an intellectual understanding that may or may not happen. I’m also aware that many guys like to debate and challenge and discuss. It’s something we do and I wonder if our church services these days have become over feminised?

    But saying this, teaching in church appears to be something God wants me to do, despite trying to get out of it many times! And occasionally, I get that amazing sense that something clicks and I know I’m communicating something special for God – that God is ministering to people – and he’s actually using me – me! I feel overwhelmed and humbled at the thought.

    I guess I don’t come at writing a sermon from one angle although I do have my own methods. I think about the passage and let it sink in. I wonder and pray about what God is saying to me and what is he saying to our church. I think about how it fits with our purpose and mission (as the church here in Twerton in Bath) and what we discern God saying to us as a bunch of followers of Jesus. I read stuff and listen to stuff around the subject. I try and remain open to the Spirit without being wishy washy. You could say the sermon is on the back burner of my brain for a week – and this can be very tiring. The sitting down and writing is the easy bit and I write it all out in full (although I never read it but speak from memory)!

    One question I often ask myself is “So what?” This helps me bring my talk down to where the rubber hits the road.

    Heaps of Peace. The reluctant vicar.

  38. TyTe says:

    I realised that I just wrote a sermon of a blog post! lol I hasten to add that my talks are no longer than 20 mins long!

  39. Wife says:

    Jon, thanks for your vote of confidence. At least I still go to church…sometimes! ;-)
    Janet, hang on to your vicar! he sounds great. even if he is from another planet!

  40. Lori says:

    Joe, #23, Americans do not have accents!! (Except those Southern ones)
    :-) :-)

  41. Lori says:

    Did Anne just say she stole an idea from Jesus?!

  42. subo says:

    “we should all make a conscious decision to ‘put our hands up’ at some point during a sermon”

    I love it, a proper ASBO protest, lets do it!

    – and why is it churches become rooted and stuck in ‘critical parent mode’, with the pickled preacher leading the way (one theory of course, is their too hypocritical to let the smug mask slip, and a warm grin connect them with their fellow sinners)

    oh by the way, I’ve learnt loads from some preachers, just not the ones who should never have been aloud to try – now we are stuck with them because no one will say ‘you just don’t reach anyone through than mire of waffle’.

    actually I now realize there’s something I hate more than the stodgy pudding preach, that’s the dualistic bigot who grossly misrepresents my faith

  43. Forrest says:

    Re: #41 “Joe, #23, Americans do not have accents!! (Except those Southern ones)Comment by Lori — May 30, 2008 @ 3:55 pm”

    Hey now, is that y’all Yankees makin’ fun of where ah was raised here down in Gawjah, Cahrolinah, and Vuhginyah?
    Well, Ah guess it figyahs: ya cain’t trust none of them Yankees fer nuthin! ;-)

  44. Sarah B says:

    Carole – re WAY back up there… I don’t know Bull**** Bingo so not sure if the sermon game is the same.

    I was in the church choir and the game was to listen out for a word beginning with ech letter of the alphabet in turn. It produces a line of concentrated faces in the choir stalls which can be quite amusing. We had a LEGEND of a curate once who discovered the game and wrote a theologically sound sermon which included them all – even X, Y, Z!

    Imagine my terror when I was then preaching there as a youth minister! I think I was more unnerved by the other person in the choir who used to read her Hebrew old testament and Greek New Testament during sermons if they were dull, even though she often told me with a wry smile that she hadn’t read it during mine that morning!

  45. Joe says:

    Hey Lori/Forrest,

    No offence meant by my comments.

    I <3 the Yanks. It’s just when I hear a Brit – usually a Preacher-type – feigning the accent, I come over all unnecessary…

    Peace x

  46. Forrest says:

    Hey Joe;

    Oh, I know no offence was meant, I rather enjoy that kind of thing.

    What you may get a kick out of is that when we moved from Georgia to Virginia, the people in Virginia said I had a Southern accent.
    Wait a minute, isn’t Virginia IN the South?????

  47. jonbirch says:

    bunions… you’re welcome back any time will! and you carole! you’d love it! start one up! :-)

    btw everyone… tyte, who commented above is a terrific beatboxer… one of this country’s finest and most well known… and he’s a vicar!!!
    so then tyte, one sunday why don’t you do a ten minute sermon entirely beatboxed… i’d be along to see that! :-)

  48. jonbirch says:

    yer forrest… down in the wess coun’ry of englund we tawks loik this see! :-)

    that played havoc with the spell-checker! :-)

  49. Carole says:

    …Whereas in the North West we speak the purest form of the Queen’s English ;)

    Well in TyTe! Beatboxing – that’s a bit like gurning for cool people innit? Do you ever break into spontaneous beatboxing when the Mother’s Union are nagging you over the Mums ‘n’ tots not putting the cups away in the church hall kitchen? Bet that’d frighten them off! They’d think you were possessed of a demon! ;)

  50. jonbirch says:

    are you a scouser then, carole?

  51. Carole says:

    Yes, yes, my good man, what of it ??? ;)

  52. TyTe says:

    Nah Jon – it’s impossible to maintain a cheesy grin and an American accent at the same time as beatboxing… lol

  53. Carole says:

    So you have tried it then, TyTe?

  54. jonbirch says:

    see carole… i knew if i asked you that it’d start a fight!!! :-) :-) :-)
    scousers are great… bit jammy against arsenal though! :-)

    i don’t know tyte… can’t you multi-task!? :-)

  55. Carole says:

    Eh listen, mase, I dunno wha’ yer talk’n abous, I cudd’n knock the skin off a rice pudd’n! :)

  56. jonbirch says:

    al’ights al’ights, caam down! :-)

  57. Carole says:

    OK so I admit I have a curly perm and a shell suit, but I draw the line at the fake tan! ;)

    Seriously, I’m just a plastic scouser, disowned by my brothers and sisters for ‘livin’ over the water on da Wirral’.

  58. TyTe says:

    Alright, I’ll do it. This Sunday (breakfast at 10.30am, Twerton), TyTe will beatbox his entire sermon whilst maintaining a cheesy grin and putting on a false American accent.


    Only £5 per ticket.

  59. Carole says:

    Sarah B, no Bullsh*t bingo is different. You need a jargon rich environment to play it. I learned it from the teachers in the Maths dept in the school I worked in. When they had in service training sessions after school, before the Head or whoever got up to speak, the players would each draw a 3 x 3 grid on a sheet of paper and in each square, put an education jargon phrase, eg personalised learning, Every Child Matters, numeracy across the curriculum, learning styles etc. These would be ticked off as they were (invariably) used and the first one to tick all of his/hers off was the winner. I’m sure this could be applied to Christian circles… :)

  60. sarah says:

    Go and build a ****ing hole and stay in it, and do us all a favour.

  61. DrNick says:

    I agree with points made earlier about it not being the lenght but the content. My minister in B’mouth could preach for 40-60 minutes and it would seem like 5 because he was sooooo gifted at communicating deep truth in an engaging and accessible manner.

    In terms of having a discussion point in the sermon, I’ve seen this tried before. My Church in Yorkshire has tried it and worked pretty well, although made the sermon a heck of a lot longer! I’ve also seen it tried down South and it just led to 5 minutes of uncomfortable silence. It can get chaotic and problematic, the best system I’ve seen is teaching (more questions and points to ponder than answers) with opportunity and space to discuss it afterwards, but thats just my experience…

    ps. Has anyone else noticed a tiny smiley face in the very bottom left of the screen???

  62. Will says:

    From wordpress:

    Why is there a smiley on my blog?

    So we can tell you how many visits you have had and which posts are the most views, and how people got to your site and all the other stats stuff you have in the Dashboard, we need a way to track things. We do this by loading a small image to your page when someone looks at it and then we can get all the other information.

    And we chose a small smiley :)

  63. Sarah(61): Holes aren’t built, they’re dug. But mainly I wanted to ask: eh?

  64. Pingback: ‘Obligation vs Greed’ « The Third Province

  65. Free to think, free to believe... says:

    Oh the Automatic Pingback…

    I just wanted to say that the whole go to church out of obligation vs greed needed a better look – comments welcome if people are looking this far down these comments…

  66. Kim says:

    I’m on the Alpha team at church, so I’ve heard the same talks, PowerPoint presentations and jokes for the last 3 terms. (Real groaners) Somehow these find their way into Sunday services!! Can’t my vicar come up with any new material!!!

  67. sarah says:

    Jonathan (beardie) – it was my gut response to the cartoon.


  68. jonbirch says:

    jim my heart goes out to you. i wonder whether powerpoints should be banned. they’ve made people lazy. :-)

  69. Joe says:

    Thank you Jon for publishing my rant! Keep up the good work.

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