Preaching, Manuscripts, and Fraternal Critique

Tim Brister —  September 6, 2011 — 38 Comments

“Pharaoh, let my people go!”

That’s a joke my mother uses on occasion with my friends regarding my first sermon preached.  Admittedly, it was not that great, and I did preach everything I knew in the Bible in one sermon.

Prior to coming to Grace, I had eight years of Bible college and seminary training and six years ministering as a youth and college pastors in local churches.  With that training and experience, you would think I had a lot of practical training in preparing and delivering sermons.  But the fact of the matter is I had no formal training in college and one class in seminary in which I preached one 20 minute sermon.  Although I preached many times, I still felt woefully unprepared for the fundamental task of pastoral ministry.

Then I came to Grace and immediately began to be helped by my fellow pastor and churchman Tom Ascol.

The first thing he did was pay a lady to transcribe my first message at Grace word for word and spend two hours working through the 17-page document full of grammatical errors, pointless commentary, and incoherent argumentation.  It was one of the most grueling and embarrassing things I had ever done.  The scalpel (Tom’s red pen) dissected and performed surgery and fully exposed areas of incompetency in my preaching.  While it was almost unbearable, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to my preaching.  In fact, it was what I need 12 years ago that neither Bible college, seminary, or two church positions offered.

I have heard it said from experienced practitioners like Tim Keller and others that it takes a pastor five years or more than 200 sermons before he finds his voice/style and feels comfortable in his own skin.  In the day of podcasting and sermon downloading where church members can listen to the best preachers evangelicalism has to offer, the pressure to perform and excel in preaching is daunting.  If you can listen to Matt Chandler on Monday, David Platt on Tuesday, Mark Driscoll on Wednesday, John Piper on Thursday, and Mark Dever on Friday, then for the that church member, the young and inexperienced preacher on Sunday morning feels “karaoke”. Only a church stubbornly committed to making disciples, including disciples in the pulpit, can celebrate amateur preachers and pitting them against more polished, seasoned practitioners in the pulpit.

As one of those young and inexperienced preachers, one of the best gifts God has given me is men who are committed to making me a better preacher of the gospel.  Every sermon I preach is evaluated.  Everything is considered: thesis, exegesis, illustrations, application, eye contact, speech, grammar, length, etc.  In the beginning, I dreaded that one hour in our weekly elder meetings; however, as I sought to apply the fraternal criticism to my preaching, I began to anticipate those meetings, knowing I was benefiting from an experience in true pastoral training that many, if not most, in my generation are not afforded.  The opportunity to receive real, significant preaching instruction and help is a stewardship I hope not only benefits my hearers but also those I may have opportunity to help in the future.

One of the most significant helps I received at the beginning was writing out a full manuscript of my message. I have taken some time in recent days in light of some Twitter conversations to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned and benefits I’ve received from using a full manuscript in my preaching, and I thought I share them here for what it’s worth.

10 Benefits I’ve Received from Using a Full Manuscript (MSS)

1.  Clarity – The exercise of writing out what you are going to say before you say it provides you the opportunity of being clear in your communication. Cluttered, confusing statements do not serve preaching well.  The discipline of writing a full MSS helps you address not only what you say but how you say it in ways that are clearly understandable to the hearer.

2.  Brevity – When my first sermon was transcribed, it was over 7,000 words(!).  Since writing a full MSS (and I mean full), I have whittled down my word count to roughly 4,000-4,500 words.  The most effective preachers I know have an amazing ability to say a lot in a short amount of time.  Length of preaching does not necessarily mean you cover the text well.  It could be you are just rambling.

3.  Precision – I was taught in seminary by professors that every paragraph in a research paper should contribute to your thesis.  The same is true in preaching.  If I have 45 minutes to preach, I cannot afford to waste 5 minutes on something that does not illuminate the text or apply it to my people.  Make every paragraph count by making every sentence count.  Don’t waste people’s attention by wasting your words.

Additionally, using a MSS has forced me to be more precise in my grammar.  Things like subject-verb agreement, using the active voice, pronouns and antecedents may sound technical and geared toward an academic audience, but they are important to your delivery.  You are a public speaker, but more than that, you are a herald of God’s Gospel, and we should of all people be careful not to unnecessarily provide a stumbling block to receiving the message through being imprecise.

4.  Simplicity – One of things most impressed upon me by Tom Ascol has been simplicity in preaching.  Coming from an academic environment, I tended to use long, complex sentences and theological terms I took for granted, assuming my hearers full understood them as well.  And writing a MSS allows me to evaluate areas where my thoughts are too complex or my word choice could better serve my audience.  The simpler, the better, and a MSS is a great tool to help make that happen.

5.  Coherence – Does the points of my MSS argue and explain my thesis?  Is my thesis the point of the text?  Like precision, coherence makes the flow of your message easy for your listeners to follow.  A choppy, disconnected message makes listeners struggle to follow what you are saying.  Writing a full MSS helps you detect disjunctions and evaluate points or sub points in your message that either don’t fit or need to be communicated differently.

6.  Macro – A full MSS allows you to see the big picture to your sermon.  Is there a way you could illustrate a point better.  Are you missing application at key points?  Are your transitions helpful in reviewing?  A full MSS is like an executed storyboard.  Is your story compelling?  Are you engaging the mind, the heart, and the will?  What do you want to accomplish at the conclusion of your message?  A full MSS can help answer those questions as you have time to consider all these matters from a macro viewpoint.

7.  Retrieval/Preservation - You may preach a passage/message in the past that you may want to preach again in a different context.  I recently did this while in Haiti.   If all you have is a few bullet points or annotations, you may struggle in retrieval.  But a full MSS has everything you said, including illustrations, transitions, applications, etc.

8. Discipleship – I have made the habit of making my MSS available on Sundays, and here recently I have had non-Christians and newly converted Christians asking for my MSS to take home with them.  When the MSS is available to them, they are less worried about taking notes feverishly and can be more engaged then and there for the Spirit to apply the Word to them, knowing they could get my full MSS later.  The MSS also becomes a tool I could use with guys I’m mentoring and training as future pastors or church planters in helping them in their craft.

9.  Personal Application/Enjoyment - Exegetical/expository preaching is hard work.  Writing a full MSS can make it even harder.  But I can say that after doing it a while, God has used that exercise to convict me in areas where I’m not living where I’m preaching.  Not only that, but God has also encouraged me in the process by the leadership and assistance of the Holy Spirit.  For those who preach more extemporaneously and prepare little, God bless them.  I’m not that guy.  But here’s another thing to consider.  God is with you in your preparation as much as He is with you in your presentation.  Writing the full MSS and praying over it is an opportunity to experience the blessing of God’s Spirit owning His Word in my life.  Those hours of preparation are when heaven enters your soul.  Savor it.

10.  Preparation – Even though I write a full MSS, that does not mean I preach from it or force myself to stick to it exactly.  Some argue that it makes you more wooden or boring.  I can certainly see that happening.  But what about reading and praying over your MSS several times in the day or hours before you preach so that you are not only going to the pulpit with a hot heart but with a lot of light as well?

I hope that something here might encourage young preachers to cultivate their craft.  I am one who is far from where I want to be as a preacher, but thanks to God’s kindness in the gifts of godly examples and their constructive help, I don’t think I’m where I used to be.

If there are any questions about preaching, fraternal critique, or developing a sermon MSS, let me know.  If it would be any help to you, I am providing you four sermon MSSs from last month where I preached a mini-series on God’s grace.

Grasping the Grandeur of God’s Grace (Sermon Series)

Share Button
Print Friendly
  • http://gravatar.com/chrisbonts Chris

    Tim,
    One order or prep that has served me well in preparation of sermons is exegetical outline, homiletical outline, manuscript, preaching outline. That is, as I work through the text, I try to organize the material into a coherent exegetical outline that I might employ if writing a paper (it is often chicken scratch). This is where the bulk of my study in the languages, commentaries, etc. takes place. Next, I move from exegetical outline to homiletical outline. What does this text call for the listener to do? How can I best communicate those commands, promises, central truths, etc. to my listeners in my MAIN POINTS (which are often all that my audience writes down). From there, I develop my manuscript, thinking through illustrations, transitions, my introduction and conclusion. After my manuscript is completed, I pray over it, tweak it, let it soak in, etc.

    The morning of my sermon (or evening), I sit down with my manuscript, which by this time I know quite well, and develop my preaching outline that I carry to the pulpit. By the time I finish it, I usually don’t even need it to preach, but it helps me stay on point and finish on time.

    BTW, I find it easier to preach from handwritten notes than typewritten ones. I prefer to use the BOKU notebooks. I have been using this method for so long, I can tell within a couple of minutes, how long my sermon will be based upon how many pages my outline covers.

    Thanks for the good word. May we all remember Paul’s admonition not to neglect our gifting.

    Chris

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      Thanks for sharing your preparation process Chris!

  • Brent Hobbs

    I appreciate many of the points you make here, and see a lot of value in the extra time spent producing a manuscript before you preach a message.

    However, I am an advocate of preaching without any notes at all. (Once in a while I break that rule and bring a post-it note with me into the pulpit with a list if Scripture references I plan on using.)

    When done right, this forces you to simplify your message, transition naturally, and stick close to the text.

    The added value in communication style, eye-contact, flexibility are enormous.

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      Thanks for your thoughts, Brent. I guess one of my challenges is that I don’t trust myself and my thought processes if they are not tethered to a concentrated train of thought. I am amazed at guys like yourself who can preach entirely without notes!

  • http://gravatar.com/pastorjeffmedders Jeff Medders

    Great points Tim! Very helpful. Encourages me to keep going with the MSS. I did a MSS for the first this past Sunday, so glad I did. Won’t be turning back.

    • http://gravatar.com/pastorjeffmedders Jeff Medders

      Oh..I realized that using a MSS helps me import phrases and language that I wouldn’t normally use. It is incredibly easy to fall back into the rut of our common way of saying things.

      • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

        Great point, Jeff. I would also add that I think every preacher has certain phrases or words they use without being totally conscious of it, and they are more like “tics”. I can’t stand to hear myself preach, so the least I can do is read through my manuscript. ;)

  • http://cypresslakebaptist.wordpress.com Pastor Randy Alston

    Good stuff Tim. What a blessing to have Tom help you in this! I also type it up, pray over it, and read through it several times, but don’t necessarily read it. It helps (though sometimes my brain still gets off track).

  • http://gravatar.com/cwhisna Charles e Whisnant

    I agree with you Timmy, knowing what you are going to say when you preach-teach. Some can memorize their notes in their head, and don’t use note. Spurgeon had a full manuscript, but he had such a good memory he only used notes. John MacArthur does the same thing, (I had his preaching notes in my hand once when I went to the Shepherd’s Conference).

    Like you they didn’t teaching writing or how to write a sermon in Seminary, (Sermons come from the Holy Spirit on Sunday when you are preaching you know, they would say.) that would have been great to know how to write in the first place.

    Today I am glad there are tools and resources that help you develop in your preparation and writing of sermons. Keep up the good posting and preaching and writing.

  • http://Billstreger.com Bill Streger

    Tim, thanks for putting this together (in addition to the ongoing discussion on Twitter about preaching). 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.

    My only drawback is delivery. It feels VERY different than preaching from an outline, as I’m delivering a completed sermon rather than fleshing it out as I speak. Not necessarily better or worse – just taking some getting used to. Also having to work very hard at eye contact and avoiding the temptation to read it. Hoping the years of previous experience are helping keep the delivery vibrant and engaging.

  • Pingback: Preaching, Manuscripts, and Fraternal Critique - christianfamiliesnetwork.com - christian families network

  • http://www.cms.org.au/missionary/southamerica/stephen-and-rebecca-shead Stephen Shead

    Tim, many thanks for this. I also preach from a full manuscript, and sometimes feel rather second-rate for it, given the current fad of preaching with no notes. I don’t mean to disparage preaching without notes – I greatly admire people who can do it, and am sure it helps some people to communicate better and more directly with people. However, it IS a fad, in that it’s the current “thing to do” if you want to be a real preacher. (At least, that’s what it feels like in my own context.)

    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.

    I don’t read it word for word, though I stick pretty close to my text. My basic method is to glance down at the next short paragraph, think “oh yes, that’s what comes next”, look up, and say it with full meaning (i.e. thinking and meaning what I’m saying – almost re-creating it for that moment). If I have gone over the manuscript shortly before preaching, it all comes back very easily.

    Each to his own, of course. God bless those who can preach without – or is it God strengthen and equip those who don’t feel they can communicate with? But let’s not pressure people with the idea that one is inherently better than the other. To adapt Philippians 2:18 (with tongue in cheek, begging everyone’s pardon): “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether with notes or without, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”

  • http://www.matthiasmedia.com/briefing/author/sandy-grant/ Sandy Grant

    Timmy, good on you from Downunder for saying what goes against the current trends. However, for some of us (perhaps more than we realise) there are very good reasons for using a full manuscript.

    And I have noticed in downloading some of the talks of the well known conference preachers that even though they are great to listen to, there is sometimes a lot of waffle and repetition and that all too common phenomenon of getting carried away with their early points and running out of time for their latter points and so rushing or skipping stuff at the end that they presumably thought mattered in the study. And this even happens in conference talks where they are given a whole hour. With a full manuscript they could have said it all in less, and I suspect, often just as compellingly.

    I certainly ramble without a full MS (MSS is the abbreviation for plural manuscripts). And I’m with you on improved clarity, coherence and precision, as well the the brevity point. Also in returning to the sermon later (often to re-work) or sharing notes with those who want to study further.

    However, not sure I am always simpler as a result. One temptation is to use time saved by removing padding and waffle is to try and stuff more detail into the sermon. Not always so productive.

    Still it’s a matter of liberty and knowing yourself.

    If you use a full manuscript, it certainly helps if you have what I call good eye-page coordination. Can you glance down at your page and instantly see where you are, then you can use full notes without people suffering pathetic lack of eye contact. But if you really struggle to find your spot in the notes again, then maybe it’s not for you.

  • Pingback: Why Preach From A Manuscript? | Soli Deo Gloria

  • http://www.armchair-theology.net Dave

    Tim,
    As an understudy to a pastor I occasionally have the opportunity to preach. My first sermon was from an outline and my second from a full MSS. The full MSS was far better in terms of precision and holding me from tangents. My problem is that I had trouble maintaining eye contact while preaching. Any advice?
    Thanks and God bless!

    • http://www.cms.org.au/missionary/southamerica/stephen-and-rebecca-shead Stephen Shead

      Dave,
      Since Tim didn’t reply … does my comment above help at all? Maybe it depends on why you have trouble maintaining eye contact – is it because you are simply “reading” your manuscript, rather than re-telling what you prepared? Is it because you’ve prepared it, but haven’t practised it sufficiently (in front of a mirror – or a family member! – might help), so don’t know it sufficiently well? I also found Sandy’s comment above about “eye-page coordination” interesting.

  • http://gravatar.com/revsmw Scott

    To the dismay of my preaching professors, I’ve always used a manuscript. I notice that I often have a tendency to “wander” and chase rabbits, and the manuscript helps me stay on track. With so many making pastors feel guilty for having any notes at all, I really enjoyed this article. Thank you.

  • http://preachdatruth.blogspot.com Paul Horne

    Tim,

    This is some very practical advice thank you for it. I am a ministry student right now with the hopes of becoming a pastor and I am looking for places to start honing my skills. I am part of a rather large church with about six pastors on staff, so my home church I don’t see it happening. Do you have any suggestions?

    I also am attempting to do a video Bible study through FB and my blog and feel that it is getting me better at vocalizing what I am learning. What do you think about these types of teaching as preparation for the “Big Leagues”?

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.roden Brian Roden

    My pastor works on sermons 5-6 weeks ahead, writing a full manuscript. In weekly staff meetings he gives the pastoral and support staff a copy of what he’s working on, with a request for feedback as to what could be clearer, where he’s using 75-cent words that need to be simplified (he’ll work with original languages in his prep, but doesn’t throw around Greek and Hebrew in his presentation), whether an illustration connects for them, or whether he needs to be more precise so people don’t take away the wrong conception theologically.

    Whenever I’m called on to preach, it’s usually in a bilingual context (English/Spanish) at a Hispanic congregation we also attend (my wife is originally from Mexico). I write up a full manuscript in English, and translate as I go, usually doing a couple of sentences in English, then repeating in Spanish (they have some non-Spanish speakers who attend). No way I would attempt that without a MSS. I’ve seen too many bilingual preachers translating for themselves who will forget parts of what they just said in one language when they repeat in the other language. One hearer group ends up not getting the whole sermon.

  • glen

    I have printed out every word of my messages for the last 21 years. For a number of reasons:

    1. In years ahead, I can go back and know exactly what I said. Someday my posse will discover the notes in a vault and Kindle them for the world. Psshh!
    2. Writing it out ahead of time allows the use of color words and thoughts that might not be in mind in the press of preaching.
    3. For anyone in the church who missed Sunday’s message, I can attach the message and send it to them, and they have the full text.

    I also print out the notes in 22 font, so that I can wander away from the pulpit and still see them from a distance.

    I do not stand and read the notes, and often think of other things to say beyond the notes. They are simply there as an aid. But they are helpful to keep my left-handed brain from getting off on rabbit trails.

  • Tash

    Wow – God’d a funny one with his timing.
    Just this monday, I ‘preached’ my first ‘sermon’ in front of my whole school as the seniors did our Week of Worship – ten minutes of awkwardness. It was received really well (but I think that God had a little bit more to do with that than I did), but I wouldn’t want to go through that experience again without a little more help from God preparing.

    Thank’s for the tips for future preparation. At the moment it’s a little too ‘fresh’ and traumatising for me to bear listening to the recording and transcription of it that I can make from it – but I will in the near future.

    So yeah, thanks for the challenge … :)

  • http://blbarber.wordpress.com blbarber

    Tim, Does your eldership use some sort of template for the critique? If so, would you be willing and able to share that sort of thing. The eldership at our church is getting started on a process like this and the point person has asked us all to contribute what we think the process should include. Thanks.

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      I don’t think we have the template written out in detail. That wouldn’t be that hard to put together, however. We typically begin with general thoughts or observations about the sermon (what was our big impression). We then proceed to the individual components of the message (thesis, outline, exegesis, gospel exultation, practical application) as well as the delivery (connecting, illustrating, flow, coherency, etc.).

      If a template would be helpful, I can see about putting that together in the near future.

      I will say this: I think fraternal involvement is helpful on both ends of the preaching process. At the beginning (sermon preview), the team can help evaluate exegesis and give helpful commentary as you craft your message (and provide resources, illustrations, perspectives that you may not have). At the end (sermon review), the team can help you with practical help in your development and give encouragement and affirmation along the way.

  • Pingback: More Thoughts on Sermon Manuscripts « Provocations & Pantings

  • http://www.CCWtoday.org Jim Elliff

    Tim,

    As always, you are thought-provoking. I may be wrong about all of this, but it seems to me that sermonizing as we’ve known it for a few centuries now, has way too much to do with oratory. Do we really have examples of manuscripted sermons in the NT? We are to study the Scriptures diligently, and should be well prepared, but the presentation of the truth, from all appearances, was perhaps far less “worked-out” as oratory in the apostolic example than we have imagined it to be. For instance, I don’t get the impression that Paul’s teaching through the night at Troas was a series of organized presentations, but rather a more dialogical and spontaneous explanation of bibilical truths…..unloading the burden, so to speak. Apostolic evangelistic preaching (the main way “preaching” is used) was also very spontaneous, it seems. How do you line out biblical examples on sermon presentations?

    On the other side, I’ve often been helped by biblical oratory, especially as it remains true to the text. But, I’m just trying to work out the biblical examples. Was sermonizing as we do it the practice of the early believers? (I am not saying that what is descriptive is prescriptive, of course.) Or, are we just working out the way teaching truth must be done in what has become the traditional pulpit/pew world? Ideas?

    Jim Elliff

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      Hey Jim!

      Great to hear from you brother. You have, as usual, given some really good food for thought, and I will try to interact generally to what you have stated and asked.

      Regarding oratory, I’m assuming you mean preaching as a monologue (you seem to argue for more dialogical, give-and-take approach). I would argue that faithful preaching in a monologue fashion would be dialogical in the sense that a good preacher knows both his text and context. But not only that, he knows the subtext, that is, what is going on in the minds and hearts of the people. Because he is exegeting the text (Scripture) and context (culture), he knows the questions people are asking and struggles they are experiencing and seeks to answer them with the gospel.

      So I would argue that the preacher in monologue is dialogical if he is also a good missionary and neighbor in the world as well as regular engages in gospel conversations with his people. The dialogical is inherent and is also part of the preparation process, which apparently goes against the spontaneous kind of preaching you are arguing for.

      Regarding spontaneity, I think preachers should be ready “in season and out of season” meaning they should always be prepared to preach. However, I also see in Scripture that the church did have a pattern and liturgy where they regularly received God’s Word. My assumption is that those gatherings in the Temple (for instance) was one where the apostle or pastor delivered messages that may or may not have been the product of study and preparation. At least three things lead me to believe there was preparation:

      1. Paul tells Timothy (a young pastor) to keep a close watch on his teaching, and that for the sake of his hearers (1 Tim. 4:15-16). Keeping a close watch requires time and effort (i.e., preparation). He is to be faithful to Scripture and make sure that he is guarding the good deposit entrusted to him (2 Tim. 1:14)

      2. Paul also tells Timothy to “do your very best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worked who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). Again, my assumption that a principle part of that diligence is related to Timothy’s preaching. Essentially, Paul is telling Timothy to be prepared to handle the Word of God. That is what sermon preparation is all about–making the point of your sermon the point of the text.

      3. When the apostles handled the situation with Hellenistic Jewish widows in Acts 6, the rationale of “the twelve” was that they should not give up necessary time to preach the Word of God for “serving tables” (Acts 6:2). I take that to mean they spent considerable amount of time devoted to the Word of God in preparing and delivering God’s Word as fitting for their role as elders/apostles.

      I’m sure there are other arguments that could be marshaled both ways, but I’d posit these for your consideration. Thanks for your edifying thoughts!

      • http://www.CCWtoday.org Jim Elliff

        Thanks Timmy.

        I do think your last four points are worthy ones, but may not indicate the need for the style of preaching and teaching typically done in our churches.

        Let me illustrate another way: Last Sunday I spoke on Psalm 73. I had been moved by this psalm during the week and saw some very powerful applications in it for our congregation. I read it repeatedly, meditated on it, looked up a few linguistic things, drew lines and circled in my Bible (I try to teach without notes, or with notes only in the margin.).

        We read the Psalm twice and I began. The study was a moving one for our congregation. There was some interaction related to it during the message, and much more following the message. We labored over it together. I had no outline, but I believe I understood the text and could talk about it for hours. It all fit together and all of it flowed in my mind, though I had no execution plan except to read through the text and try to explain it and apply it. There was essentially one point for the psalm, that I could see. I had no idea how it would work out as a “sermon,” but I knew that if we stayed with it we would understand what God had for us. It turned out to be very useful for us….even perhaps memorable. The people will always be able to feel the impact of this psalm as they read it again through the years. We ended the evening (we meet at 4-9 or later, including a meal) with several other smaller expositions from the Bible by other men. It was a Scripture-filled evening again and very satisfying.

        Back to your insightful points: Was I (1) keeping a close watch on my teaching? I think so. Was I (2) doing my best to present myself as one approved, rightly dividing the word of truth? I believe so, in that I meditated on the passage until I understood it as it had been intended. Add to this that I had the joy of spending many hours on reading other portions of Scripture during the week. Did I (3) take the necessary time, as the apostle might have? I think so, but it did not take me as long as most, because I wasn’t working on a “presentation” but mainly just understanding the text.

        It does seem that the idea of well worked-out sermons, or presentations, with much emphasis on oratory set in the context of an “order of service” would all be rather foreign to the early church. Manuscripting serves that form of preaching fairly well, but is the whole thing off the mark? Again, I’m not saying that I’ve not been blessed by that at times, or that we are not free to do it, but just that it seems to me to represent something very different than what the early church thought of as “teaching the word.”

        I just read an old Founders Journal on Authentic Worship, where four churches presented their order of service for a certain week, and I was struck by the liturgical nature of all of that. Again, it’s all so “worked out” and stiff. It seemed so unlike what I think the original idea of church life looked like, though, I emphasize, we are free to do it.

        As you know, I’m all about the Bible and serious study of it. I think pastors are way under prepared to teach it in most cases, and I have suffered myself from a poor understanding of what it takes to be that kind of person. But all along, I’m finding myself quite hungry for something more than the liturgical feel that I get from most of our doctrinally sound churches. I think the apostles would be almost shocked by our approach. Something’s missing.

        I wonder what you see in the NT that would move us to the worked-out liturgy and heavily crafted sermonizing we do today. Obviously 1 Cor 14 is there to study even though dealing with problems in the church. There is something to learn from that. But I’ve not been able to find what we practice today. Perhaps others can make a case for it, but I can’t find it myself.

        I appreciate you, Timmy. You’re on a good subject and who can underestimate the importance of getting all this right. Thanks for trying to work it out with me.

        Your brother, Jim

  • Pingback: Around the Interweb | Blogging Theologically | Jesus, Books, Culture, & Theology

  • Pingback: Should we preach from full notes or is that unspiritual??? | niddriepastor

  • Pingback: Strengths Of Manuscript Sermons (via Timmy Brister) | mgpcpastor's blog

  • Pingback: What I Read Online – 09/15/2011 (p.m.) | Emeth Aletheia

  • http://www.facebook.com/ivor.greer Ivor Greer

    Thank you one and all for the fascinating discussion on the use of MSS in preaching. Lots to work though.

  • http://http.//thesewordsmin.blogspot.com/ Chris Nelson

    As someone who was bi/voc, I found it far more important to have more time to study than to memorize my sermon. God’s word is more important to study and memorize than a silly pastor’s. I also did not want to say anything from the pulpit that would dishonor God. The fear of the Lord is an important constraint.

  • Pingback: Weekly Wraps (September 19-25) « Zoy Sauce Etc

  • Pingback: Latest Links | blog of dan

  • Pingback: Why I Preach Without Notes | Covenant Theology

  • Pingback: Write out your whole sermon? | benleney

  • Pingback: CK2:20 Preaching without notes? | HeadHeartHand Blog