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: [Read more…]