OK, if you are using limited notes, where do you keep them?
1. In the Pulpit
Here the preacher places the limited notes on the pulpit. When done well, the audience may not even recognize or remember that the notes are up there. However it can be a disaster when done poorly. The other day I saw a preacher who would look at his notes, leave the pulpit say a few words, walk back look at his notes, leave again. It became completely obvious that the preacher either didn’t know his manuscript or he does not have the gift to preach with limited notes. Wherever you keep your notes, you must know them well.
A few years ago, I attended a workshop entitled: “Authentic Patience: Improvisation and Preaching.” The presentation was by Rev Mark T. Davis who is the senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Boise Idaho. Rev. Davis has an interesting sermon methodology that relies on riffs and improvisation like a jazz musician.
The first step in Davis’ methodology is to become saturated in the text. He reads the text with two “teams” beginning 6-10 weeks out. This is a group of members that Davis has set up to help him in his sermon preparation. The group reads the text and state everything that comes to their minds and the things that jump out of the text.
The Talking the Walk Blog has an interesting post that seeks to derive help for preachers from an interview with Denzel Washington.
Denzel answers why he did a particular hand movement in a movie by saying:
Of course…it’s just rhythm. Acting is like music. You improvise. It’s like jazz. There is no rhyme or reason to it. It’s not a plan. I just did it. It’s a rhythm. Stanislavsky said that you cut 90%. You do all your research; and you prepare, and then you let it rip. And that’s how it is. You practice the music, you know, and then you just play it.
Now thinking about preaching, we have many tools for preparing. We exegete the text. We look at the text historically, linguistically, and theologically. We prepare by putting together a good outline and then add some good stories and illustrations. You prepare by practicing, but then when it is time to preach, Denzel encourages us preachers to just “let it rip.”
Trust the Holy Spirit, trust your preparation, and then “let it rip.”
We all have heard the preacher who preaches without notes by stating everything that comes to her or his mind. You know what I mean, the preacher grabs and articulates everything. I mean everything that occurs to the preacher.
A whole ago, I heard a sermon that was just like this. The preacher had highs and lows. The preacher made some profound points. But the points had no relation to each other. Then the preacher sat down in a whimper.
At the end of a sermon like this, it is very difficult to remember either the individual points or the main point of the sermon. You can imagine what went wrong. There is no main point and thus the people remember no main point! So how do we fix this?
Glad you asked, here are four points to help you fix this problem.
Don’t jump from thought to though without any rhyme or reason. Preaching Without Notes is not a brain dump. Put your sermon together as you would if you had a manuscript. Be open to the Spirit’s leading. Follow the text. And ultimately, allow that Biblical truth to come through you to the people.
Many SoulPreaching.Com readers have asked that this replay be presented. So here is the video of the seminar.
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