Category Archives for "Without Notes"

Perfect Memory and Preaching Without Notes

Remember those infomercials about “MEGA-MEMORY?” Kevin Trudeau wrote spoke about learning some techniques to strengthen one’s memory. After seeing the thing for years, I finally purchased the system off of ebay for a big reduction in cost.

After working through the system, I realized that while Trudeau’s claims were extravagant at times, his system did actually work to improve your memory. I then researched and saw that these memory techniques were used by the ancients to memorize even long speeches. In addition, I saw that the techniques that Trudeau spoke of in cheap book form by other authors. One that I particularly like is by Tony Buzan. In the next couple of weeks we will look at these memory techniques specifically applying them to preaching in general and preaching without notes in particular.

You might want to purchase a memory book like Use Your Perfect Memory or even the book form of Kevin Trudeu’s system that introduced me to memory techniques.

Storr’s Conditions of Success When Preaching Without Notes

Richard S. Storrs second lecture in the book entitled Preaching Without Notes: A Series of Lectures describes some specific conditions for success in preaching without notes. These are as follows:

  1. Physical vigor kept at its highest attainable point. – The preacher must be as healthy as possible if one is to preach effectively without notes.
  2. Keep your mind in a state of habitual activity, alertness, and energy. – This will help the preacher grasp subjects easier. Just as you keep your body active, we should keep our mind active. Storrs suggests reading a lot of material. And the kind of reading should be active, studious, and rapid. In addition, one should read widely. Also, Storrs suggests conversations with people. Finally, one should be active in many endevors.
  3. Be careful that the plan of your sermon is simple, natural, progressive, easily mastered, and is thoroughly embedded in your mind. – Here the preacher must master the general plan of the sermon. And this general plan must be simple and easily mastered. Here we are looking at the sermon from a bird’s eye view.
  4. You Should have command of sufficient subordinate trains of thought to aid you in unfolding and impressing the subject. – Here the preacher must have sufficient information in his or her mind in which to draw from, but the preacher should not feel compelled to use any individual piece of information. The key is to have a large amount of information from which to draw.


In Storr’s method, the preacher must memorize and have mastered the basic structure of the sermon. However the illustrations and examples that the preacher uses should not be totally planned out before the sermon is presented. The preacher should have many stories and ideas to illustrate the sermon and then allow the moment to bring whatever of these illustrations that one would present.

Storr’s General Suggestions for Preaching Without Notes

Richard S. Storrs wrote a book entitled Preaching Without Notes: A Series of Lectures. The book is made up of three lectures on this subject. Storrs presents some general suggestions in the first lecture.

  1. Never begin to preach without notes with any idea of saving yourselves work by it. – In this Storrs emphasizes that the amount of work is not less, although it is different. The preacher works on his or her sermon all day long. The job is to completely master the subject the preacher seeks to present.
  2. Always be careful to keep up the habit of writing, with whatever of skill, elegance, and force, you can command. – Although the preacher does not necessarily write out the sermon, the preacher must write at other times. This would include essays, letters, and other kinds of writing. This writing will help the vocabulary of the preacher.
  3. Be perfectly frank with your people in regard to this matter of your method of preaching. – Here the preacher lets the people know why the method of not using notes is being used. This will help the pepole be ready for possible mistakes that you will have as you try to a new way of preaching.

  4. Discharge your mind of the sermon when once you have preached it. – Here you must find a way to clear your mind of the current sermon so that there will be room for the next sermon. Storrs suggests that a good way to do this is to make your next sermon much different from this sermon.
  5. Never be discouraged by what seems to you, perhaps to others, comparable failure. – Storrs makes a couple of points here. First, no one hits a homerun everytime. Even the best lawyers lose cases, physicians lose patients. You will have sermons were not the best. Another point is that what you think is a failure may not necessarily be thought so by your parishioners. Sometimes we are the hardest critics of our own sermons.
  6. Do no violence to your own nature. – If after you have tried to preach without notes over a period of time and you are convinced that it is not a skill you can cultivate, go back to the use of the pen and reading your manuscript.

Whitefield and Extemporaneous Preaching

The Exiled Preacher has a post up on George Whitefield and Expository Preaching. Guy Davis, the author, writes about how difficult it can be to use a manuscript effectively. Certainly many of us have left our manuscript for a second to “riff” on a theme or go down a different direction. However upon attempting to come back to our manuscript we find it difficult to find the correct place. Because of this, Davis has spent the vast majority of his career as a preacher without using notes.

Time Needed

Davis notes that an extemporaneous sermon requires at least as much preparation as one that is read. The preacher must make sure that the sermon is structured well. Davis notes that this structure should be both “clear and straightforward.”

What To Memorize

The preacher does not attempt to memorize the whole sermon. There are methods that seek to do that, but I think that the most effective ones memorize some sort of outline. For example Joseph Webb, in Preaching Without Notes presents an inductive outline that is held together by a controlling metaphor. Koller in How To Preach Without Notes provides a deductive outline with points and sub points. An interesting approach is Litchfield’s in Visualizing the Sermon who suggests creating an outline of images. While I do think that preparing a full manuscript is helpful, for archival purposes as well as providing precision to word choice, having a clear outline is necessary for preaching without notes.

Preaching Without Notes – Immersion in the Bible Language

Burnell Eckardt.0An Evangelical Lutheran Blog run by a Father Eckardt has a post up on Extemporaneous Preaching.

In the post there is first some discussion of the Eckardt’s theology and understanding of Preaching. What was of particular interest to me however was his methodology.

One interesting point is that the preacher must have an immersion in the scripture and the use of Biblical language in the sermon. He calls for thinking in and speaking in the language of the Bible. He also calls for the use of the KJV because of its beauty in language.

It is a good piece and I would suggest going on over and looking at the other suggestions that Eckardt provides.