Just last week, I was asked the question again by seminary students. It comes up multiple times every year. And since I keep getting asked this question, I thought it would be worth addressing.
And that question is, “Should I preach from a full manuscript?”
By “full manuscript” they mean they write out their sermon exactly how they would preach it. Word for word.
Now, I am not eager to jump into the fray over preaching methodology. When it comes to the question of how to preach, there is no shortage of books, articles, and blog posts offering advice and guidance. And once you start sifting through these materials, it becomes apparent that there is no shortage of disagreement about the particulars of the preaching task.
But, I think progress can be made on this question if one important distinction is maintained, namely the difference between writing a manuscript and using a manuscript. The former is a very helpful and worthwhile exercise (particularly for younger preachers). The latter, in my opinion, can seriously hinder a preachers development as well as the effectiveness of their delivery.
The benefits of writing out a full manuscript are many. It forces the preacher to think clearly about each of their points and how to develop them, it helps the preacher think through transitions between points (something often overlooked), it helps keep the sermon within the desired time limit, and the exact wording allows for more theological precision.
And, on top of all of this, a full manuscript allows a preacher to retrieve their sermon several years later and preach it again without wondering what he originally said.
But, when it comes to using a manuscript in the pulpit, there are serious drawbacks:
1. It (almost) inevitably leads to “bubble preaching.”
Having seen countless seminary students use full manuscripts over the years, they almost always (there are a few exceptions) end up reading it. If you have the full text in front of you word for word, and you are already worried about what you are going to say, then reading it is a foregone conclusion.
And when a preacher reads a manuscript, it almost always leads to what I call “bubble preaching.” This is when the preacher is in his own little bubble, going through his message line by line, with virtually no connection to the outside audience. Sure he gives the token eye contact, on cue every seven seconds or so, but no one really feels a vibrant link to the person as he is preaching.
Bubble preaching is when a preacher could be in the sanctuary completely by himself and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference–the delivery would be exactly the same.
Of course, there are always exceptions to this concern. Some are so exceptionally gifted that they are able to read a manuscript without sounding like they are reading a manuscript. Others are able to have a manuscript in the pulpit but (in superhuman fashion) resist the urge to read it.
If these exceptions apply to you, then feel free to keep using a manuscript. But, for the rest of us mere mortals, we will need an alternative.
2. It overly prioritizes content.
Let me clear, when it comes to preaching content is king. As preachers we have a message to deliver and we need to get that message right. But, concern for content can so dominate a sermon, that there is little consideration given to how (or why) people receive the content. We are not doing our jobs if we get the content right but it is never heard due to poor delivery. Good content doesn’t matter if no one is listening.
Preachers who are able to break out of their bubble, make real eye contact, and engage with the congregation, can be, paradoxically, more effective in delivering their content than those who use a manuscript.
Given a choice between perfect word-for-word delivery in a bubble, and an imperfect delivery outside the bubble, I will take the latter.
3. It slows a preachers development.
Standing up and reading a manuscript every Sunday prevents most preachers from learning to speak extemporaneously. It gives a preacher less opportunity to learn to speak on his feet. Why are such skills necessary? For one, as noted above, I think such skills make him a more effective communicator that is more directly engaged with his congregation.
But, such skills are also necessary because a pastor does not always have a manuscript in front of him when he is required to speak outside the puplit. In a counseling situation, for example, where a pastor is applying the Word of God to a particular issue, he cannot prepare a manuscript in advance. He must learn to communicate clearly, cogently, and persuasively, with no manuscript at all.
Or perhaps someone asking him questions in a Sunday School class that require on-the-spot answers. Or perhaps he is witnessing to his neighbor and has to explain important doctrines on the fly. None of these situations allow him the luxury of a manuscript, and yet he must speak.
Someone might object that they don’t have the skill set to speak more contemporaneously. Fair enough. But, the question isn’t whether you have the skills now, but how you will develop those skills in the future. And those skills won’t develop by sticking with a full manuscript.
4. It misunderstands the difference between written and oral communication.
One of the major drawbacks of writing a sermon is that very few people can write a sermon in the kind of language that can effectively be preached. What makes for effective written communication is not always what makes for effective oral communication. Indeed, they are often like two different languages–the pace, the style, the cadence, and even the vocabulary can be notably different.
This is why reading a sermon manuscript rarely works. Reading simply doesn’t sound the way preaching sounds. It sounds, well, like reading. They are two different genres.
In light of these four concerns, I might suggest an alternative to a full manuscript. Instead, I encourage my students to use a detailed outline. This is more than the single (small) page of notes that Spurgeon would take into the pulpit. (When asked whether he wrote out his sermons, Spurgeon famously quipped “I’d rather be hung”!).
No, unlike Spurgeon, I am talking about multiple pages of detailed notes. And such a detailed outline, I would argue, demonstrates concern for both content and delivery.
On the content side, the outline provides the necessary prompts to carefully explain the theological and textual issues at hand. Moreover, the fact that the outline is detailed (and not just broad bullet points) still allows a pastor to go back to the manuscript later and know what he preached the first time around.
On the delivery side, an outline does not allow for easy reading like a manuscript. Indeed, one cannot just read an outline (lest they become non-sensical). Thus, the preacher is forced to articulate the point more fully in his own words. And this helps develop a preachers public speaking ability, not to mention his connection to the congregation.
Of course, merely having an outline does not prevent a preacher from keeping his head down, stuck in his notes. But, at least he is not required to stick his head in his notes (which is largely the case with reading). An outline at least creates more natural opportunities for eye contact and congregational connectivity.
In the end, the decision about using a manuscript is not an easy one. There are great preachers who use full manuscripts. And there are great preachers who do not. And so people will reach different conclusions about this issue.
But, I still have to give an answer to my students. They want to know what method is the most effective in developing preachers. Not writers, but preachers. And the answer to that question, I am convinced, is not to be found in full sermon manuscripts.
Good challenge! I like the practice of using a detailed outline based upon a thoughtfully, prayerfully written manuscript. I would go so far as to say that for most of us sermon preparation that does not include a written manuscript is very risky and almost ensures that the intended content will not get communicated well or communicated at all. It leaves too much room for ad-libbing and raises the possibility that a preacher will come away from a sermon saying to himself, “I wish I had not said that.”
Those who’s sole focus in public speaking is evangelistic, as was the case with the late Dr. Billy Graham, seem to have less of a need for a written manuscript. But for those charged with the regular teaching of the word I believe it is very important.
Eugene F Douglass, MS, MDiv, PhD says
Well, those of you want to read from a prepared manuscript, why not save time and just email or mail your sermon to the visitors, members and avoid the preaching?? I am 62, and have taught Chemistry in secular colleges and universities for decades. If I wrote out my lessons, and then read from them for the lecture, most if not of my students will be bored silly. To me watching pastors who read their sermons, I always have the comment come to my head, if your sermon was so valuable I would rather read it myself.
And then if a pastor is tired or had a bad week, the guy gets lazy and reads again a sermon he gave 4 years ago at an evening service, or worse reads a sermon by Charles Swindoll that was written down, pretending it is his.
Otherwise, I would rather hear an expository sermon based on some basic study, where the Holy Spirit guides the spoken words, that can be varied or changed slightly based on how the congregation responds. One’s style too often comes off as, the missive of a pompous jerk showing off by his written eloquence. Blech!
I feel that you misunderstood my comment. I am not an advocate of using a manuscript to “read” one’s sermon but I do recommend writing out a manuscript as a way of sermon preparation. I realize this method is not for everyone but generally speaking I believe it is a very useful tool in developing good sermons. Peace.
Eugene F Douglass, MS, MDiv, PhD says
NO, don’t worry, I was speaking in general terms, more as a warning to other readers. My favorite preaching book is Biblical Preaching by Haddon Robinson.
Whatever works for you is fine, as you doing it that way, if it helps you focus your thoughts great.
I even tried that in my seminary preaching class starting at Covenant, but it ended up making my sermon sound scripted, or droll. I then figured out for myself, start with the text, and a solid expository OUTLINE, and then when preaching WING it. Trusting God to provide the words from the Holy Spirit in my heart, making sure as I preached the words that came out of my mouth were consistent with the TEXT, not my own opinions.
Kevin Murray says
I think I once heard Haddon Robinson or Dick Lucas say ‘Your manuscript is not the sermon. When you open your mouth to preach THAT is the sermon.’ I do a full manuscript, which I have in front of me but don’t read. A full manuscript helps me be mor e precise.
Eugene F Douglass, MS, MDiv, PhD says
Yeah, That is one thing Haddon Robinson mentions in his book biblical preaching. Preach from the heart, what you know and understand about the passage, pay attention to your audience, so that if you notice you can make slight or large changes to fit the hearers. Frankly, I hate anything more than a bare outline, after I have studied the passage for myself. Then it can be preached/taught from the heart, where YOU have applied it to YOURSELF first.
It is not your job to win the hearts of your audience, but God’s job, to use your words to give HIM the credit, and praise.
Eugene F Douglass, MS, MDiv, PhD says
Absolutely NOT. Do a basic outline, using the text, as to what it clearly says, then speak from the heart what those verses mean to you. Provoke the listener to come to the same conclusion on the text for himself, or a similar conclusion, fitting his life circumstance.
What the passage means TO YOU is irrelevant. The meaning of the passage is constant and determined by the author. The application of the passage may vary from person to person. But authorial intent determines the meaning. The reader doesn’t have the right to interpret the Scripture any way he sees fit.
Eugene F Douglass, MS, MDiv, PhD says
Funny, anonymous Paul, you totally missed my point that I I further elaborated on later, in further posts. As Haddon Robinson says in his fine book Biblical Preaching, the passage needs to be applied to you and your own life first, and then the Holy Spirit can use your words from the heart to express what He wants. We express what the text SAYS and teaches, with authority because we believe it ourselves, and it shows in our thoughts and life, private and public.
Unfortunately, the tendency of many pastors is to compose a sermon fully, fuil of charisma, very eloquent, designed to fascinate the hearers who will be amazed at the guys gift with words. Well, the Bible warns against preaching and teaching to tickle ears, and with a full manuscript, pastors/teachers may be tempted to value style over substance, to manipulate instead of to let the Holy spirit speak thorough them. I find it funny, that you do not use your real full name here, you could be hiding behind the name of an Apostle to give your nitpicking argument some gravity.
I learned shortly after I became a Christian to be very wary of “ear ticklers”, with wonderful puffy sermons that manipulated people into false doctrine. And in seminary, in my own teaching to NOT do it myself. A certain level of fear or anxiety is very useful as a teacher, to let God use you as an instrument, instead of being a pompous eloquent false prophet of some belief the you yourself, as a possible tickler has.
LOL These verses are perfect.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
My name is Paul Wilson Young. Dr. Paul Wilson Young to be exact (Expository Preaching from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary). However I, unlike you, have no desire to flaunt my education for the world to see. If you think an insistence on authorial intent is nitpicking, then you have a far different doctrine of Scripture than I do. I have neither the time nor the inclination to debate the matter. Blessings be yours in Christ!
Eugene F Douglass, MS MDiv, PhD says
Well, I am very impressed by your credentials (why did you not display it in the first place (and what kind of doctorate you earned???), which makes me all the more baffled when you take my original position, try to read my mind, and then nitpick it to criticize it’s brevity instead of joining the conversation.
I quote your original critique of my short statement I made to start the conversation.
Here is my running commentary:
“What the passage means TO YOU is irrelevant.”
It is NOT irrelevant. I did not make that bare point you mind readed to think I made to object to my short statement, I made very clear to speak the truth from the heart (assuming the context that all readers read Dr. Kruger’s essay), with the ASSUMPTION that those readers and others involved in the conversation had a heart changed by the Holy Spirit with the Spirit dwelling within us. I said later, we apply the passage to ourself first, and then share with the normal people in the audience to do likewise. Being a christian LEADER.
“The meaning of the passage is constant and determined by the author.”
Hardly. Saying it is constant is silly, as people with agendas, like pastors/teachers who are “ear ticklers”, will twist the meaning for their own purposes, and mislead their congregations.
Well, if we assume that scripture is inerrant, and infallible, in what it teaches, and says, that God wrote it, and used His people to write it down. How one interprets the passage to preach topical sermons instead of expository sermons, often makes people’s opinions more important than the real true meaning of the text. Real expository preaching involves taking the true meaning of the text and then teaching the audience what it means to them, as the Holy Spirit dwells within the Godly preacher/teacher.
“The application of the passage may vary from person to person. But authorial intent determines the meaning. The reader doesn’t have the right to interpret the Scripture any way he sees fit.”
Again, your last criticism is just mind reading, interpreting what I said as being I recommend interpreting scripture without the Holy Spirit guiding us. And yes, just by your last criticism, regarding how I see the nature of the Biblical Text, makes me really wonder if you even think it is inerrant and infallible in the original languages, the typical orthodox Christian view of scripture.
To the reader, I ask you all to take with a grain of salt this guy Paul’s criticism of my original comment out of context, when it was merely made to state my firm belief, for myself, that an outline is much better. Sure, people can disagree with me, but if so, most of the others who commented filled out the discussion admirably. Thanks to everyone else, who thought the best of my initial comment.
Also, I only put my credentials as my name here, just to show the reader, as I have the training and over 30 years teaching in all sorts of context to comment. I am proud that most people address me by the name “Gene”. Putting full creds also, was for Dr. Kruger, to see his audience, not as some way of making myself superior, a MS, or even a PhD does not make anyone superior to a plumber who might have not even graduated from high school. Funny, that Paul was annoyed that I understood Dr. Kruger wants us to give our full legal name to post.
Lastly, readers, beware of nitpickers who instead of thinking the best of an initial comment, criticize it making huge leaps of assumptions that only those words were what I believe is absurd, and even dangerous. As those nitpickers are like the Sadducees and Pharisees who Jesus condemned over their fights over jots and tiddles in the scripture, instead of hearing the Word of God in the clear textual meaning, as their eyes are opened by the Holy Spirit. This nitpicking is just a way to AVOID the true meaning of the text, or someone’s statement, it is a classic “change of subject to avoid and evade”. Paul’s kind of nitpicking is particularly dangerous in the church. Don’t do it yourself. If you do not understand someone’s initial statement, ask them questions, have a dialogue. Because I wrote my original words, in a short summary to provoke a discussion. And many here made it a very interesting one.
Gene Douglass (I like that name to refer to myself day to day, my degrees do not mean much at all)
The posts from this proud ‘Dr’ are full of arrogance and drip with sarcasm. His mind is clearly closed to any views that differ from his own. His contribution to this discussion is therefore unhelpful.
Al Ngu says
I love the detailed outline format. Preaching from fill manuscript is reading, not preaching and congregation deserves a lovely preaching. Thanks
Eugene F Douglass, MS, MDiv, PhD says
Great response. I would rather hear YOU preach.
Scott Kelley says
Excellent suggestion! I have found that if I read I am rarely preaching. Detailed outlines are the best. Often for the introduction, I write it out with precision to emphasize the angle of the sermon for the text prescribed. I think you advice is sage all the way!
Jeremy Burch says
Lay preacher here with about 10 years of experience: I personally do not have the skill to write a manuscript within the allotted time for preparation. I’ve tried and it just takes me way too long. Instead, I use a semi-detailed outline. I write out key points word for word so as not to miss them in my delivery, but most everything else is rather abbreviated in my outline. I think through the notes in my “preaching voice” multiple times to make sure everything flows and makes sense. Depending on the length of the message, I will take a 1/2 sheet (10 min sermon at a nursing home) to up to 3 pages (30-35 min sermon on Sunday morning) into the pulpit with me. I used to take a lot more with me into the pulpit, but what’s really helped me is teaching Awana T&T (3rd-5th grade) for the last 3 years. I’ve really grown in my ability to teach with minimal notes. Granted, there is a bit more back and forth in an Awana teaching setting, but the skills developed there translate to the pulpit quite well.
As a young preacher, with little homiletic training, I have been using full manuscripts. I view it as a necessary evil as I am quite fearful of my mind going blank and the message coming to an abrupt halt midway through–this fear from experience! But as I have grown in skill my confidence also has grown, so I may try a VERY detailed outline in the near future.
To avoid reading my manuscript–which I try to never do–I bold the key phrase / word of each paragraph–that only a quick downward glance will trigger the next thought, which then enables me to keep my head up as I continue to maintain that connection with the congregation. If I start to lose my train of thought, it is so helpful to be able to look down and pick up again where I left off. It is imperfect, but it is where I am at the moment. It is for me more peace of mind than anything else, but I imagine this can change with more practice.
Eugene F Douglass, MS, MDiv, PhD says
Read and use Haddon Robinson’s book Biblical Preaching to learn to do your preaching better. It is easy for a lay preacher/teacher to read and will guide you how to exposit the text to preach and teach what the text teaches as the Word of God. The type is Expository Preaching. It will keep you solidly grounded. If you use that book, and teach/preach from your heart, guided by the Holy Spirit who lives there you will do just fine.
All the best.
I think these are some really good points. I tend to write a full manuscript but I think I’m going to start using a detailed outline.
Eugene Douglass, MS, MDiv , PhD says
It depends how much attention you pay to your congregation. If you use a basic outline, when you know in your heart what the passage means to yourself and your own life as a Christian, God will provide the words to eloborate when you preach it. Also make a real effort to not “stay on the porch too long”, either in the introduction or the conclusion of your sermon. Too often preachers go on too long on the porch going out, to either impress or to cover everything. The whole point is to get the congregation to think what does the scripture mean to me, and hopefully act on it in some way. Not provide ways for them to make excuses, and avoid the main point of your message, because you put on a show or bored everyone by scraping the milky way with a pompous lofty sermon.
Matthew M. Rose says
If one is called to preach the Word of God, and studies the Scriptures intently; then an avid use of *overly* heavy notes and/or written sermons are liable to hamper the influence and will of the Holy Spirit. Every Bible preacher and teacher should know this! What we intend, and plan to say (and touch on) is infinitesimal in comparison with the power and working of the Holy Ghost.
Heavy notes and/or polished manuscripts should be regarded as the fruit of a thorough gleaning of the Text and topic at hand;–not a blue print for preaching. The blue print for a sermon should be a concise page (or two) of notes, or a clear outline based upon the initial (and more exhaustive) notes or manuscript.
Obviously the exception makes the rule, and some portions of Scripture are more taxing than others. Yet, in my personal experience,–the middle ground between the method of Spurgeon (a small single page of notes) and the advice of Dr. Kruger given above (“multiple pages of detailed notes”) is a very happy medium indeed.
That said, *good* article and great comments and insight from all! -MMR
Jim Pemberton says
The one area that have found written sermons to be helpful is when I’m being translated. For those occasions, I write the content of the sermon, but then have to go back and completely rewrite it. This is to remove large words or idioms that are difficult to translate and to break sentences up into smaller parts that are easier to translate. (It also helps the translator to have the text written ahead of time.) It has actually helped my untranslated extemporaneous preaching, for which I still use notes.
I have noticed that some of the best preachers have short sections of their sermons that they read verbatum. They read a section, extemporize on what they just read aloud, read another section, extemporize, read, etc.
Is it possible to see an example of what you mean by a detailed outline. I have trying to get free of my manuscript. I tend to read certain section of my sermon and ad lib other sections, but I am interested in being less dependent on my manuscript than I presently am.
Robin G Jordan says
All of the problem areas that Dr. Kruger identifies are correctable. For example, a preacher can learn to write his sermons in spoken English and not written English. This takes some practice but it can be done. He can also learn to “read” the sermon without his eyes glued to the text. He scans a few lines, establishes eye contact with the congregation, and then speaks what he just read. He can use suitable gestures as well as look at different people in the congregation as he speaks. These are techniques that I learned in high school and college speech classes. Collectively they are called “interpretative reading.” At the same time do agree with Dr. Kruger that a preacher needs to be flexible. He also needs to learn to preach without a script. This will help him keep from overemphasizing content. When I first began preaching, I read from a script., using the techniques of interpretative reading. My sermons. however, proved too long for the aging congregation of the church where I preach. So I began preaching without a script. This not only helped me to reduce the length of my sermons but also to do a better job of gaining and holding the attention of the congregation. I still need to work on one important area of my sermons — the conclusion. My experience suggests that it is a good idea to memorize the introduction and conclusion of the sermon and to develop a mental outline of what one hopes to cover in the body of the sermon, organizing the body of the sermon into “thought blocks.”
A major drawback of reading a sermon that I have noted is the tendency of some preachers to include a lot of extraneous information in the sermon. This information serves as “filler” between the major ideas of the sermon, assuming that sermon has a number of such ideas. Too often I have heard sermons that do not.
Eugene F Douglass, MS, MDiv, PhD says
Well, Robin, my gripe with your position it is so “elevated” you may impress a few very intellectual members of your congregation who are happy with your written or verbal flourishes, but the rest will either ignore you or fall asleep, because your message has totally gone over their heads. Speaking from the heart, after one has applied to the passage to oneself, and made sure they are already following the advice therein, is much more relatable. Your anglican tradition is unfortunate, because the rail, the distinction between clergy and laity is often solid, and the pompous pastors look down on their peasant congregation, because their education is not as “elevated” as yours. Unfortunately that falls into a morass of people growing tired of the pastor’s words and essentially tuning them out, and the pastor becomes a legend in his own mind.
One thing that when I finished my seminary training, is that there is NO biblical distinction between clergy and laity, that tradition died out with the Old Testament and was replaced with the priesthood of the believer who could and was expected to go to God himself, through the presence of the Holy Spirit in one’s hear, so each individual could intercede with the father on his own.
In my duties, for my vocation I taught multiple sections, and even multiple classes every week on God’s general revelation. Pastor preachers usually preach on God’s special revelation. Based on what God has called them to do and where.
Benjamin B Inglis says
I’m hesitant to even speak up as I suspect I’ll be in the minority; but perhaps that’s all the more reason to do so. I own myself among the happy company of those (mortals!) who preach from a full manuscript – even, *gasp* to the seeming encouragement of the church. By that I mean that there are those (many actually) who come up after and say things like, “that was so clear and helpful, thank-you.” I say that not because I consider myself a great preacher – in fact as far as preachers go I am almost certainly a resounding average – but to illustrate that it is possible, even probable done the right way, for Christians to benefit from a manuscript sermons.
I suddenly get very tired when I read things like “preparing a manuscript beforehand quenches the Spirit,” as if somehow the act of speaking without notes is somehow better situated to be blessed by God. In case there was any doubt, let me be clear, the manuscript preacher is just as dependent on the Spirit in the study – and indeed, in the pulpit – as the outline or extempore preacher. It enables me to be intentional about the structure, the logic, and to ensure that the words I use are appropriate and accessible.
Now, there are few things I do that help minimize the “bubble” effect suggested here as nearly inevitable:
1. Format. I use large fonts and break large paragraphs into points. This means a lot of paper, but such a “breezy” format reduces the likelihood of me losing my place and having to reorient myself mid-thought.
2. Familiarity. Since by the end of a manuscript, I have already been over it several times, I am very familiar with it, often to the point where even looking at the first few words of a sentence enables me to repeated a thought while looking up to make eye contact with the congregation. This definitely means an extended sermon prep time, but I trust it isn’t wasted.
3. Writing the way I speak. Kruger you made a point about how our tendency is not to write how we speak; with practice, however, you can write how you speak, to the point where no one would be able to tell the difference. The contractions, colloquialisms, and rusticisms will make your manuscripts absolutely unpublishable, but very listenable.
4. Prayer. From before the first word I put down, I endeavor to commit the entire process to God, knowing that it is only his Word that is “like a fire, and like a hammer which breaks the rock in pieces.” The most fluid prose will not convict a sinner, nor will the most unencumbered spontaneity. At the end of the day, Christians need to see Jesus. Whether his beauties are expounded through notes, by memory, or by manuscript, the important thing is that they see Him.
Keep serving brothers, your labor is not in vain in the Lord!
Eugene F Douglass, MS, MDiv, PhD says
Well Ben. If you preach from a full manuscript, you can’t be paying to your audience much, as they listen to adjust as the Holy Spirit urges you, you are more inclined to resist the quiet urge of the Spirit to adjust the words to fit the moment or the people listening.
If you are intent of using a full manuscript, post it on your church’s website, encourage the congregation to download and read it before Sunday services, and then explain it from the heart, referring to the Bible verses you are expounding, so they are driven to the word of God.
I guarantee you if you have a tendency to read or give a memorized sermon, without adjustments to the hearer, you will lose your audience, either to polite boredom, or they will fall asleep or worse yet, make up excuses to avoid coming to church and listening to your reading, because it feels patronizing to them.
Nathan Copeland says
Love this question, and agree with much of what Dr. Kruger says here. Just a couple of thoughts from one who used to preach multiple times per week. I actually found that writing full manuscripts helped me maintain freshness in preaching because otherwise I tended to say similar things from different texts, even relying on the same illustration “off the cuff” for different texts. The key for delivery was knowing how to mark up the manuscript in such a way that I always knew where I was, with explanation, illustration, and applications sections clearly marked off. I also found that full manuscripts helped me stay within time limits. Fewer notes often meant I would explain things in two or three or four different ways instead of trusting the explanation I thought through carefully beforehand to do the job. Finally, writing for clarity was crucial for me, but then with the busyness of ministry I struggled to find time to reduce my manuscript to notes. Eventually I just stopped trying and started becoming more familiar with my manuscript so as not to have to rely on it so closely in the pulpit. Keep up the good work, brothers!
Great article. By the time I get into the pulpit I’ve got my message mostly committed to memory and can just use by powerpoint slides as a roadmap. I think reading ties you to the pulpit, your notes and the opportunity for spontaneous outbursts:)
James McClure says
The most sensible comment on the subject was made by Benjamin B Inglis.
The One who is with me in the study as I prepare and write my sermon (and prompts me to use certain words and phrases) is the same One who is with me in the pulpit as I preach His Word. The using of a full manuscript in no way inhibits a passionate proclamation nor an immediate and engaging relationship with the hearers of the sermon if it is truly owned and declared by the preacher.
The lack of a manuscript, or the non-use of a manuscript, does not indicate a ‘greater anointing’ on the preacher!
If you have a manuscript, you can share it with those who have hearing difficulties. They can read along as the sermon is preached or taught.
Ben Howard says
Great article! This is exactly how I primarily preached before having my sermon interpreting every week. Now my detailed outline has become a full manuscript as it is much easier for the translators. Japanese is so different from English that they really need my complete thoughts to accurately translate. Then we provide a complete Japanese manuscript and/or in ear translation to whoever wants it. I’m pretty sure I don’t preach as well from a manuscript, but God is using it and I have overcome some things like learning how to write like I talk. I am very thankful for 15 years prior to pastoring in the context I do where I learned to preach extemporaneously with a solid outline. It is still helpful as I now preach from a manuscript. And, yes I believe I still interact okay with the audience. That part is hindered more by the necessity of reading glasses than a manuscript since people are now blurry.
John Gallagher says
If one reads well, there is not better way to go. I tend not to trust preachers who are running around and not looking at their notes. If you read well — nothing compares to a good manuscript sermon.
How can that even be considered preaching?
Am I to believe that Paul and the other Apostles engaged in such a method?
Reading (presenting) a paper is an Academic exercise,–not an Ecclesiastical one.
Eugene F Douglass, MS, MDiv., PhD says
MMR, I agree with you, if someone reads (or reads but pretends not to) from a manuscript many in the audience would rather do something else (like read it themselves another time, if at all), as life rarely, if ever, follows a polished manuscript. And unfortunately, many pastors/teachers can be lazy at times and reread a manuscript they did months or years ago, or worse yet read a polished sermon by someone else, pretending it is their own.
Frankly, at my age (and experience level in life evangelical) 62, I have heard read too often polished sermons by people more desiring or impress the audience, worse people attempting to tickle ears.
I tend not to trust preachers like Mr Gallagher who do not trust pastors who do NOT rely on extensive notes. As it seems that style is more important to them than substance.
Abraham Armenta says
Dr. Kruger, could you share an example of what you use for preaching? It would help to see an example of what you mean.