For the last week I’ve been talking about how to communicate to teenagers with clarity. On Day One I asked the question, “How many minutes will kids actually listen?” …quickly touching on the fact that we might need to make our talks a little shorter (check out the comments that day… some interesting reactions and discussion about that). Day Two I talked about “Communicating with Clarity-Using Stories.” Day Three I talked about “Communicating with Clarity- Only Use Gifted Communicators.”
Today I’m going to specifically address the subject that seemed to get a rise out of some… Keeping it Short. This time let’s really dissect the length of our talks.
Last week some people grew concerned when I mentioned the concept of using 10 minute messages. The comments said it clear:
“We shouldn’t cater to our culture’s short attention span.”
“We need to be teaching the youth that God is deserving of more attention than anything else in their lives.”
It seems that many us are worried that shorter messages mean “watered down” messages.
Is this true? If we shorten our talks, are we sacrificing depth? Or, as I asked in Day Two of this series, “How can we be memorable and clear, yet not so short that we lose clarity and depth?”
Let’s look at the length of some of the most famous and memorable speeches in history. For example, how many minutes was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech?
How many minutes was Winston Churchhill’s famous “Never Give In” speech at Harrow School on October 29, 1941?
4 minutes, 12 seconds.
How about Abe Lincoln’s Gettysburg address on November 2, 1863? Surely this was a longer talk.
For such powerful, memorable, life changing speeches… those seem pretty short.
Some might argue that these aren’t Biblical examples. Maybe sharing Biblical truth takes longer. The other day a person commented to Day One of this blog series, “The Bible isn’t made for 5 to 10 minute consumption.”
I admit, I wasn’t there when Jesus gave most of his talks, so all I have of his teaching is what I read in the Gospels. For example, in Luke 8 a large crowd gathered and he told them the parable of the sower. If you read that parable out loud, it will take less than a minute.
Like I said, I wasn’t there. Maybe that was only part of a much larger talk to that crowd. Or maybe he just told that story. Either way, the only thing that Luke wrote down was that short little story. The memorable part of that talk was one story, telling one powerful point.
In Luke 10 a man asked Jesus what he has to do to inherit eternal life. Wow. That’s a big question, right? We wouldn’t want to water it down with a short answer.
Jesus answered with a question. “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”
The man answers with the greatest commandment. Jesus basically responds, “Correctamundo!”
But the man wants a little more details, so he asks, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus answered the question with another story. “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers…” Again, this story takes about a minute to tell. If you read all of Luke 10, this whole interaction takes about a minute or two. Then, off to another village.
Has anyone ever accused Jesus’ one or two minute response of being “watered down?”
Far from it.
In a simple one-minute-story Jesus hits his audience hard with a point that would never be forgotten. Not only was his story memorable and powerful… he made the most despicable sinner imaginable the hero of the story (imagine telling that story in church today and making Lady Gaga the hero).
Short? About one minute.
The fact is this: the Gospel writers frequently record Jesus talking to people in short, memorable stories. Maybe Jesus was on to something.
My point is simply this: Why say something in 25 minutes when you could say it in one minute?