Methods for Preaching Without Notes – Memorize Whole Thing


It is sometimes thought of as the Holy Grail of preaching. We look and see them preach with a grace and style that seems supernatural, but how do they do it? How can you preach without notes in an effective manner? In the next few posts, we will look at different methods used by preachers to preach without notes.

The first method is to simply write out the full sermon and memorize it. Here you must write in a memorable fashion. However, it does require not only the time to create the sermon, but it also requires a lot of time to memorize the sermon.

Some preachers memorize the sermon by just being so familiar with the sermon through repetitious practicing. The great advantage of memorizing the sermon is that you can work on the words used in the sermon. However, you can lose spontaneity.

A preacher who does this, must be open to the moving of the Spirit who may inject words here and there and concepts. To do that, the sermon must be structured in such a way that one can easily move from one thought or point to another.

I have never attempted such an approach, but a good book that suggests this kind of preaching is Without a Net by William H. Shepherd. If you preach in this way, let me know.

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Sherman Haywood Cox II

Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds the M.Div with an emphasis in Homiletics and a M.S. in Computer Science.

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jofuss - April 1, 2009 Reply

Just happened to come upon this page! Also just happen to preach using this exact method!

I pretty much do exactly as you outlined.

I write a full manuscript in the “language of speak.” This was tricky at first and required tons of revisions. Now it usually comes the first time I’m writing.

Then memorize! To do this, I tend to read the whole thing through several times to make sure it is simple and that it flows. I must see that the bigger picture is there. After that I proceed to memorize a paragraph at a time. My sermons are usually 20-30 minutes long (equates to between 6-8 pages, comic sans text, size 12). This, on average takes me about 2-3 days to write out, finding all the choicest words for maximum impact. It’ll then take me on average one day to memorize about 3-4 pages of the script. I’ll preach the whole sermon to the wall about 2 or 3 times before actually doing it for real.

Sometimes, my sermon will have up to 40 or so references to Scripture – all memorized, Scripture as well as reference.

I grew up memorizing Bible verses, playing the piano by memory, and also studied Biology at the Uni level (all memorization really!) so I’ve always exercised my memory.

Rev Luckett - January 3, 2012 Reply

My sermons are about 10 to 12 pages. I try to keep my sermons limited to 30 minutes. for the most part I do this. However I don’t get to preach every sunday, i’m a Associate Minister. Maybe 2 to 4 times per year. One method I used to to memorize as much as I can and put sticky notes on the opposite page of my bible, for points I really need to make, or scriptures I really need to quote or refer to. If I get enough memorized that leaves room for the Holy Spirit to fill in the gaps with whatever HE wants. My last 2 sermons I used the manuscript in the pulpit, but I want to get away from depending on a manuscript all the time. In order for me to memorize the sermon, I would need to practice it about 3 times a week. I seem to flow better with a manuscript though. But if I could say this, it seems like some anointing is lost when using a manuscript. Just my thoughts.

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