It hasn’t been long since a 31-year-old pastor in Mount Dora, Florida, set the record for the longest sermon ever preached.
Pastor Zach Zehnder of Cross Church began his quest on a Friday and by Sunday had preached for 53 hours and 18 minutes. I have to assume he has no deacons at Cross Church, or they would have pulled the plug after an hour.
During the two-and-a-half day homiletical marathon, Zach preached through 45 of his own sermons and displayed more than 600 PowerPoint slides as he moved from Genesis to Revelation, highlighting the theme of divine faithfulness. Personally, I’d say having a church put up with a 53 hour message is a sparkling example of congregational faithfulness.
According to the Broward New Times, “To comply with Guinness World Record rules, Zehnder had to speak before a minimum of ten people the entire time, and there had to be two independent witnesses to sign off on its validity and monitor his break times. To ensure these rules were met, church members formed groups to help out and rotated shifts, moving in and out in groups of ten. Some spectators stayed nearly as long as Pastor Zehnder. Toward the end of the event, hundreds of community members came to see him complete his speech marathon.”
The sermonic display was done as a fund-raising event to raise money for a local recovery ministry. (In my past churches, I suspect the folks would have given money to have me preach shorter, not longer.) In addition to whatever spiritual benefit may have come from the lengthy message, the record-breaking sermon raised more than $100,000 for the local charity and drew national news attention. Which got me thinking: what other record-breaking attempts could be made by preachers?
Other Potential World Records..
• The most fried chicken consumed at a church supper
• The most irrelevant stories packed into a single sermon
• The most “And finally” references included in a message before actually stopping
• The most deacons packed into a church courtyard to catch a last-minute smoke before the service begins
• The longest sermon introduction before actually beginning the body of the message
• The most “points” packed into a single sermon outline. (The record I’ve heard so far is 27. Trust me, you’re just as happy not having heard it yourself.)
So get ready, Guinness Book of World Records people. We preachers are just getting started.
Michael Duduit is founding Dean of the College of Christian Studies and the Clamp Divinity School at Anderson University. He also serves as Professor of Christian Ministry. He is the founder and still serves as Executive Editor of Preaching magazine, one of the nation’s premier publications for pastors. His email newsletter, Preaching Now, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences. He is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching, Joy in Ministry: Messages from Second Corinthians, Preaching with Power: Dynamic Insights from Twenty Top Communicators and Communicate With Power.