Since my last post, I have enjoyed considerable feedback on the use of a full manuscript in preaching. I thought I’d comment on some of the questions I’ve been asked, including practical inquiries.
1. Preaching from a full MSS is not for everyone. But even if it is not for everyone, I would argue that it is a good and helpful exercise, especially for young and developing preachers. It will be helpful in your thinking/processing, writing, and eventual delivery. I don’t know if I will preach from a MSS for the rest of my life, but I certainly have found it challenging and helpful at this particularly developmental stage.
2. Speaking of delivery, that seems to be the main drawback from using a full MSS in preaching. That certainly is a challenge, but the opposite could also be the case. Consider two comments from my last post:
I have been preaching for about 12 years now, and have only recently begun to manuscript. I resisted for a long time, fearing it would make my preaching wooden and dry. The truth is, it’s done the opposite. I’m finding myself saying things in fresh ways, rather than falling into the rut of saying the same things the same way. I’ve also found that it has brought so much clarity and focus – the process of manuscripting (and the editing!) has really helped me sharpen the content of my sermons. – Bill Streger
But the ironic thing is: For me, it’s works the other way. I use a full manuscript, because I can communicate more naturally, directly, passionately and engagingly WITH a full manuscript than without. I know it’s a personal thing, but if I have notes or nothing (yes, I’ve tried it), half my brain is worrying about whether I’ll forget something important, where I’m up to, etc., which means I can’t relax. With the “safety net” of a manuscipt, I can put all my thought power into what I’m saying, and all my energy into engaging with people. – Stephen Shead
Four things I would add to this. First, don’t allow your MSS to be your security blanket and end-all be-all. If using a full MSS empowers you to be boring in preaching, throw it away. Second, familiarize yourself with your MSS. The more you internalize, the more freedom you will have in your preaching. Third, you can include in your MSS places where you need to emphasize, slow down, or draw out a particular point. Last, if you think about it, even the most gifted communicators use a teleprompter (which is a word for word reading on a screen). Reading from a text or screen in front of you should not hurt you terribly (unless you simply don’t make the effort).
3. On delivery, I have also been asked about eye-contact and whether or not people in the pew can tell that I’m reading from a MSS. As I stated in #2, being familiar with your MSS will give you more liberty to look out to the audience more. I want to believe that I have fairly good eye contact with my hearers and can usually tell when and where I’m connecting most during my message. As for a MSS, I would say that most do know that I’m using a full MSS, but I don’t see that as a detriment, so long as I’m not simply giving them a lecture or fail to bring the persuasion and pathos inherent to preaching.
4. Some questions have related to the length of my sermon and the amount of time I spend in preparation. My sermons are generally 40-45 minutes long, and I spend a total of approximately 12-15 hours of preparation each week total. I spend 4-5 hours exegeting and outlining the text (Monday-Tuesday), 4-5 hours researching the text (Wednesday-Thursday), and 4-5 hours typing my MSS (Friday-Saturday).
5. One of the things that has helped me recently is preaching from my iPad. Once I have completed my notes in MS Word, I send it to the Pages app on my iPad via iTunes. I increase the font to 13 so that in landscape it is large and in portrait mode it is normal reading (I prefer portrait). The backlit text is easy to read, and there is no flipping pages.
I hope these additional thoughts to preaching with a full manuscript bring more clarity to the important work of preaching God’s Word faithful and fervently. Preaching is hard work. We need to encourage and exhort one another whether we preaching a full MSS or without notes. From one who is learning and growing and seeking to become a better preacher, I appreciate your encouragement and feedback!