I do appreciate the comments on my previous post and I regret that I have not been able to respond. Perhaps I'll integrate some responses into this and other posts.
I'll again say that my concern is not sermon length per se. My concern is a low view of preaching and a general intolerance for the exposition of the Word. This seeming intolerance may be reflected in today's increasing demand for shorter sermons.
I don't think the issue has anything to do with attention spans. We live in an increasingly educated society where a greater number than ever are continuing their education. This means sitting through hours of lectures for a number of years. People can do it if they're convinced that it will improve their lives.
I'm always bothered by the sentiment that it doesn't matter how a minister preaches as long as he's good with people. While I agree that a preacher should work hard to build relationships, he also needs to be a good preacher. So why might some have a low view of preaching?
1) In our church culture, I think worship is increasingly viewed as being participatory. This is a good corrective to some extremes. Worship is not about being a passive observer. But I think some worship leaders are now accentuating the areas they feel are most participatory (i.e., singing and communion), possibly to the neglect of more Word-oriented activities. Some fail to realize that active listening is also participatory.
2) Some may have a low view of preaching because they've mostly been exposed to mediocre preaching. They haven't heard real biblical exposition that makes Scripture accessible and that connects with everyday life. They've heard soap boxes, rants, doctrinal lectures, denominational defenses, history lessons, and stand-up routines.
Now I don't claim to be the best preacher on earth and no one consistently bats a thousand. But I'm passionate about preaching and forever working toward the goal of perfecting the craft. I've come a long way, but I'm not where I eventually envision myself to be. I work as hard as I do because I see myself as a steward of God's treasure. I view preaching as a sacred trust, not to be handled flippantly or haphazardly.
3) Many are of the view that since preaching isn't what draws people to a church, or keeps them there, then it must not be too important. But who says that preaching makes no difference in drawing or keeping people? Many are starving for the Word.
I'll admit that I've been a member at churches where the preaching had nothing to do with why I was there. I was there because of relationships with the people, or because I felt needed, or because the worship was inspiring. So I admit that preaching isn't the whole package. But there have been at least two churches I've attended because I was drawn by the preaching. The sermons spoke to me so personally that I wondered if the preacher had access to my life on hidden camera. The sermon was the shot in the arm I needed each week. Preaching was not the only reason I stayed, but it was the reason I came.
And we must remember that people are wired differently. While we all need preaching, communion, and to sing songs of praise, there are different aspects of worship that speak to different people according to who they are and where they are. While the preaching is what's always done it for me, I'm not the only one in the congregation. And while preaching may not be what does it for you, it may be what keeps someone else encouraged.