Well sometimes I feel like I am beating a dead horse. But this time, I am quoting someone else. Peter Mead over at Biblical Preaching is beginning a discussion of why he doesn’t use notes.
Mead echoes just about everyone else who talks about this subject when he begins the post by saying that whether you use notes or not is less important than other concerns, namely is it Biblical, does it have a clear idea and purpose, and is it relevant. I would definitely agree with all of these points.
However Mead’s reasons for preaching without notes are:
Mead notes that this is the “why” of his preaching without notes, next he will give the “how” and I really look forward to that post.
At any rate, I think that his reasons for preaching without notes are fascinating. While his first point is a common one, I have not really thought of the other points.
The thought that it forces you to create a good outline, means that the sermon that is preached without notes, must have an internal connectivity that makes it easy to remember. I would guess creating such an outline will also make the sermon more memorable.
In addition, I really think that the connection of the sermon to the text is an interesting one. I really look forward to other posts as he explains what he means here. And the caution against jumping from text to text without adequately dealing with any of them is always a great caution.
The author has spent some thought on the “why,” and I look forward to the “how” of preaching without notes.
Barry Davis provides hints on how to preach with a manuscript. Davis provides examples and rules for creating a manuscript that will make your people think that you are preaching without notes.
This is a very good article on a subject that very little people write on. Namely, how do you format a manuscript for preaching.
Webb’s basic thesis is that the best preaching is done without notes. He then precedes to give an example of how he puts his sermons together week after week. Webb attempts to prove that preaching without notes is more valuable in general because it allows a greater connection to the audience and it frees the preacher to be passionate. Then after defending the approach, Webb describes the approach in a day by day approach.
Monday-Tuesday Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Planning. During this time the preacher should determine what the text says and take extensive notes. He suggests a kind of extensive outlining. This is solely to determine what the text says. This is a pretty traditional component, and I would suggest other resources to fill in this component. For example, Paul Scott Wilson in Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Practice of PreachingÂ provides a much more detailed approach to determine what the text says. Another approach is Brad Braxton in Ã¢â‚¬Å“Preaching Paul.Ã¢â‚¬Â Braxton handles in outline form the steps to take in exegeting the passage. Both of these approaches do more than tell you to look at the passage, but tell you what you are looking for in the text.
Webb believes that the difference between preaching without notes and with notes is that this component should be more detailed. I think that Wilson or Braxton can help the preacher ask questions of the text which is an important component of preaching.
Wednesday: Create Outline: Here the preacher creates an initial outline and evaluates the outline. Also, the preacher gives a preliminary title to the message and creates a controlling metaphor. During this step, the preacher determines what the sermon is about and splits it up into what he calls Ã¢â‚¬Å“sequencesÃ¢â‚¬Â and others call Ã¢â‚¬Å“moves. Once again it is a very sketchy approach that might leave the preacher wondering what exactly to do. I would once again suggest adding either David ButtrickÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Homiletic which speaks extensively on how to create and evaluate Ã¢â‚¬Å“movesÃ¢â‚¬Â or John McClureÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“Four Codes of PreachingÃ¢â‚¬Â which also gives an evaluation method of moves or sequences. One can also look at Henry Mitchell’s student Frank Thomas in “They Like to Never Quit Praising God.
The controlling metaphor is an interesting sermonic device. As I look back at my own sermons, I have found that many of the more effective ones had a clear metaphor. I will attempt to always find one from now on. This is a metaphoric thread that ties the whole sermon together.
Thursday – Friday: Memorize Outline: Here the preacher memorizes the sequences. And also memorizes any data under each sequence that must be memorized. For example, one may have to memorize texts or stories for a particular sequence. Basically, you are to memorize what you need to know in each sequence. Then you are ready for preaching.
Preaching: During the preaching event, Webb pushes us to remember trust our memories and our preparation. He also suggests that the preacher not worry about forgotten sequences. Webb also reminds the preacher to be open to new things that the Spirit may give us in the pulpit as well as to interact with the audience.
I had some problems with the great method. I thought it was sketchy and that it only allowed for inductive sermons. I do not believe that inductive move based sermons are the only sermons to preach. Because of this, I wonder if this kind of preaching can become predictable over the long haul. While I am not sure that this has to happen, there will probably be a tendency to use common metaphors or common sayings, or other things may become predictable.
With those few issues however, I would encourage all to purchase this very good book.
Joseph Webb stated that passion is more important than eloquence in his book Preaching Without Notes. I heard a preacher who is pretty effective with a full manuscript. A few weeks ago he preached a sermon that moved many people. However, today he preached a sermon completely without notes. He did have more passion than normal. He also moved around and had better eye contact with the people. But, his sermon had some major structural problems.
First he used illustrations that did not fit in with his point. Second, he had more than one major text to guide the sermon. It seemed as though he was preaching two sermons as the two major texts fought with each other. Finally, as the texts seemed to conflict with one another so did the major point(s).
Webb would say that we should blame this on a lack of preparation not on preaching without notes. I say that a good sermon is always more important than whether you use notes or not. All things being equal, without notes is probably better, but if one has to choose between a well crafted sermon that is read and a presentation without a major point that has many conflicting points, I would take my notes every time.
In short, if you can’t preach a good sermon without notes, then bring your notes.
How do they do it? All of us have seen the ministers preaching without notes. They seem to show a confidence and power. But the question many preacher’s ask is how do they do it?
There are many ways to preaching without little reference to notes. Among these are:
1. Write out a full manuscript and memorize it
Here the preacher must fully write out the sermon normally and then attempt to memorize the whole thing. This approach allows the preacher to fully determine the words that will be used in the sermon, but it allows an openness to actually go with the flow of the event. The main drawback is that it requires a lot of memory and for most preacher’s more time than they have to commit a full manuscript to memory. This is the approach suggested in the book Without a Net.
2. Write out an outline of some kind and memorize it.
Here the preacher must write out an outline and memorize the outline. The benefits include the ability to fully engage the audience while giving greater flexibiity than the previous approach. It also requires much less memorization time than memorizing the full manuscript. One major drawback is that the approach does not allow for well crafted phrases. The preacher memorizes what he/she will say not how he/she will say it. Both Koller’s and Webb’s approaches use this one although their outlines look different.
3. Write out parts of the sermon and memorize them. Outline the other parts.
Some write out the introduction and memorize it and/or the conclusion. Here you gain the ability to totally phrase important parts of the sermon. You gain the benefit of fully crafting parts of the sermon, but you also keep the ability to interact with the congregation.
4. Memorize nothing
Some people think that this is what everyone who preaches withhout notes does. There are some who do this, but there are some significant drawbacks. One is that the preacher can easily end up rambling without moving to a point. While it is true that often the preacher who follows this approach does have a main point in mind, it is too easy to end up with a sermon that is not sharp. However it allows the greatest interaction with the congregation.