While browsing at the sale table of a local book store, I came across a delightful book entitled American Averages by Mike Feinsilber and William B. Mead (Dolphin Books, 1980).
The authors describe it as sort of a Guinness Book of World Records in reverse. The book is a compilation of thousands of facts about average things. I never realized how difficult it is to be average.
For example, the authors report that the average American laughs 15 times a day. I’ve had entire weeks that I didn’t reach my daily quota. I can only assume that–somewhere else in America–some poor soul was laughing himself to exhaustion to make up for my inadequacy.
Did you know that the average person’s feet hit the floor 7,000 times a day? Each? A complete set equals 14,000 collisions with terra firma each day. Mine are beginning to hurt just thinking about it.
I also learned that an average of 1.2 pieces of mail per person pass through the U.S. Postal Service each day. Now this is one place where I’m pulling my own load; on average, four persons’ worth of mail arrives in my mailbox each day (of course, 3.5 persons’ worth ends up in the round file).
On an average day in the United States: 500 million cups of coffee are consumed; 205 animals are buried in pet cemeteries; 5,962 people get married; 28 mailmen are bitten by dogs; and 80 million people listen to Muzak.
All this attention to averages inspired a bit of Study–unscientific, of course–on the average sermon in America. The results?
– The average sermon is 22.3 minutes long. Less than 20 minutes and the deacons don’t think they’re getting their money’s worth; over 30 minutes and the folks over at Second Church beat your parishioners to the buffet line.
– The average sermon has 3 points, 7.2 subpoints, and 67 listeners who feel sure the former pastor could have done it better.
– The average sermon has 1.7 jokes, 4.3 illustrations, 2.6 Greek words and 1 poem (preferably following the 3 points, as is the natural order of things).
The more I think about it, the less I want to preach “average” sermons. A great God deserves the very best we can offer, not an average effort.
Perhaps the start of a new year is a good time to commit ourselves to lay aside “average” service for our Lord–whether it is in preaching, counseling, administration or any other area of ministry. Let’s make a commitment to extraordinary service in 1987.
Who knows–the result may be congregations that are way above average, too!
With this issue we welcome four new members to Preaching’s Board of Contributing Editors: Larry L. Lehman, Pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity, Lancaster, PA; James Earl Massey, Dean of the Chapel and University Professor of Religion and Society at Tuskeegee University, Tuskeegee, AL; Francis C. Rossow, Professor of Homiletics at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO; and J. Alfred Smith, Pastor of Allen Temple Baptist Church, Oakland, CA (and recently-elected president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention).

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, 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, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. 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.

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