Beware the pastor with no backstop.

One day, I asked my buddy which church service he went to, the 9:30 or the 11:00.

Instantly he said, “The 9:30.”

I asked him why and he replied, “At the 11, the pastor has no backstop.”

Although he was using the wall behind a catcher that stops the baseball in an unusual way, I knew exactly what he meant. At the last service of the day, the pastor has no governor. There is no other service waiting to start. There is no satellite uplink or next commitment that must be filled. It’s just all sermon, all day.

I get it. At 99% of the conferences I speak at they give me a hard finish time. There’s literally a clock that turns to angry red that I can see if I go over. And there should be, they have a whole day of other speakers that need the stage time. (I once learned this simple lesson, “Never follow a gospel singer with an active crowd.” That dude turned a 3 verse song into 27 minutes beyond his allotted time. I basically had time to get up and say, “Jesus loves you. Good night.”)

Now it would be easy to say, “If the pastor goes long that’s just the Holy Spirit showing up.” That might happen sometimes but what are we really saying? The Holy Spirit doesn’t attend the early service? The Holy Spirit likes to sleep in? Maybe get some sort of complicated coffee first from “The Father, Son and Holy Roast?”

Perhaps, but you’ve been warned. If us speakers don’t have a backdrop, we’re going old school, long form, good luck playing Oscar music to get us off the stage.

Without naming names or churches, have you ever had a pastor turn a single sermon into a long form revival?

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  1. says

    Not afraid to name names – we had Jesse Duplantis as a revival conference speaker on a weekday evening while I was working our middle school service. We went about 15 minutes long because we were told we could, because Jesse usually goes “a little long” – I came out and checked at that point, and I am not sure he had even started his message (he would have been speaking for 45 minutes at this point) – 90 minutes later (9 PM when the service started at 6 PM), he finally finished – luckily our middle school students were happy hanging out playing basketball and video games, but our preschool and elementary school leaders were about to riot. The only thing that saved them is that people slowly started trickling out about 7:45 PM and taking their kids home, so they only had to deal with 10 kids or so that were past their bedtime.

  2. Juliann says

    I was in attendance at a church service once where the song “These are Days of Elijah” went on for an hour and a half… We stood the whole time. The music and singing never stopped but the whole
    ‘Service’ was peppered with outbursts of tongues and prophecy. Every time
    You thought the pastor was going to take the lecturn, he was really just making himself
    Know that he approved and swirled his arms over his head as if to say, “one more time!!” It really was interesting. I know the Holy Sprit was there, because I was dizzy.

  3. Toni B says

    Several years ago we had a guest speaker who far overshot the 9:30 service. That service went until about 11:20. Some people left. Some people got mad. The 9:30 hour toddler teachers were freaking out because their replacements didn’t come. The 2nd hour choir didn’t know what to do. But if I remember right, 17 people were saved in that service.

  4. says

    As a speaker, it drives me nuts when I speak at a church and when the pastor stands up to introduce me he ends up giving his own sermon first. By the time I get to speak, I have only a few minutes left. I’ve also had instances where the pastor got up after I finished and proceeded to embellish on everything I said for another 20 minutes. Makes me wonder why I was even there. I understand completely that pastors have a calling and a heart to minister to their people. Unfortunately practical considerations do raise their heads. I’ve been a Sunday school teacher, I know what it is like to expect the parents to start coming for their children at 11:30 and end up winging it, trying to keep the kids busy as noon comes and goes, 12:30 still no parents, 12:45 still nothing…. As Jim Rohn once said “the mind can only absorb what the seat can endure” A good proverb for pastors to keep in mind.

  5. Kate says

    The best sermons I have had heard have had no backstop. I get everyone’s frustration but I wonder about our cultural expectation for clean and tidy experiences. Jesus didn’t seem to have a backstop either – people grew tired, hungry …hmmm and that’s when the good stuff seem to happen…

  6. David says

    It happened last Sunday. The sermon lasted 40 mins. Only on rate occasions shoul it last more than 30. Seminaries usually say 18 to 22. Several people were asleep. This article sole to me because I wa the preacher ! Plan to change this immediately. Thx.

  7. Brandon says

    You all are a bunch of wussies. My dad, a former minister, if he had to meet a deadline, stopped. Concluded the service, shook hands, then took his family into the car and continued right where he left off. Into the afternoon, and into the next week.

    PK’s grew up with no backstop!


  8. Thea says

    Normally my pastor is pretty good about going 30minutes and then giving me the invitation signal. But lately he’s gotten “excited” which makes for good sermons but they are getting longer. And prior to having my baby, it wasn’t a big deal. Now, I leave the service to a screaming child who wants nothing more than to eat and I’m the dining car. NOT COOL. And I’m not cutting my music shorter. Nope.

  9. mkj says

    Children are a great backstop. We have no problem stringing the nursery and children’s church kids in a line and handing them back to their parents while Rev. Longwinded is still preaching. Rather disruptive and noisy. Message received.

  10. Sean says

    Oh yes. Worst part of it was that I was the guitarist for the P&W team. This was kind of an ongoing problem with said pastor really. Back then I didn’t have kids yet- not at least until the last 1.5 years I served on the team, and it didn’t matter as much.

    When your wife calls you on the phone because she is sick of taking care of the baby by herself and you have been at the church for 7.5 hours now, it really starts to sink in. Needless to say, it was hard but I stepped down. God- Family- Ministry, in that order. If you rearrange the order, you will have problems. Just sayin’.

    I loved the “Holy Spirit” comments. Now I can put a Godly tag to my frustrations as a minister of music at that time of my life. I had a hard time

  11. says

    I didn’t grow up going to church, so when I started to my senior year of high school I thought it was completely normal to never really know when church was going to end. The church I went to my first year as a Christian is super small and only has one service at 11 am. The pastor goes long every single week. We even got a new pastor recently and it’s the same deal. What’s great about the new guy is he will throughout his sermon tell us that he knows he’s going long, but can he make a bold statement? This happens about five or six times. Throw in an alter call. And THEN he closes in prayer. Last time I went to this church I think I left around 2 o’clock.

    But, like I said, for the first year of my new Christian life I thought this was normal. Well, like most high school seniors I graduated and moved away for college. This was accompanied by a period of time doing some church hopping. And that’s when I learned that pastors usually have a time limit! Also, that I could have choices on what service to go to!

    Now I got to church at 9 am and it’s over by 10:30. Two years ago this concept was completely foreign.

    I love both of the churches I attend, but it’s funny to think of the differences.

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