This past Sunday I tried for the second week to move toward more extemporaneous preaching, after finishing reading "Preaching On Your Feet" by Fred R. Lybrand. This week went much better than the previous week. It really built my confidence…with one caveat.
Lest you think that extemporaneous preaching is just getting up and speaking without any preparation or forethought, you are sorely mistaken. (See my earlier posts about this and Lybrand’s book).
Lybrand stresses that you prepare differently, perhaps even more…you immerse yourself in the text as you study. You keep your outline simple. Lists are helpful. While I don’t remember him stressing it, I did find it important (at least for my sense of security) to clearly think through transitions.
My final outline was somewhat simpler and shorter than I usually have used. (The actual length of the sermon preached was perhaps a bit shorter as well). I will HAVE to have some sort of note page prepared, even if I don’t take it into the pulpit, because my Powerpoint folks need the security and connection of knowing either where I am going, or where I am in the sermon!
The piece of the puzzle that he emphasizes that I have not been able to accomplish yet is an oral run through of the sermon before preaching it in front of people. In the act of speaking the sermon (or a form of it) you embed your outline in your mind.
So how did it go? I think it went well. It was a sermon on the concept of household salvation in the baptism of the Philippian jailer and his family.
My outline was:
I. The Importance of the Family (16:31)
A. Examples of the Importance of the Family to God in Scripture
B. How the Bible portrays the importance of the family
1. The family presents a portrait of the Trinity
2. The family presents a portrait of the Gospel
3. The family presents a portrait of the Church
II. The Importance of Individual Decision for Christ (16:33)
III. The Importance of the Question (What must I do to be saved?) (16:30)
This led directly into the invitation.
You can find the audio here.
I cheated, somewhat. I took the outline into the pulpit, but did not preach from the pulpit. In fact, except for the reading of scripture, I left my Bible laying on the pulpit as well. I took a copy of JI Packer’s Knowing God into the pulpit marked to a quote I wanted to use and I took a copy of an article by Andrew Nichols ("Embedded Portraits: A Theological Vision for Families") who is pastor to families at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C. It is where I got the three points under "How the Bible portrays the importance of the family" and while I did not want to read from it (and did not), I wanted to hold it up, credit my source, and I put the URL for it on the screen so people could look it up and read it for themselves.
I was able first service to pretty much do the entire sermon without notes. At one point I did walk over and check the point I was making, but that was pretty much it. Second service I had to check 3-4 times, but other than that felt that it went just as well. I had had to make a run between services to our daughter church Potter’s Hands (5 miles away) and speak there briefly to commemorate their fourth anniversary as a congregation, and came back into the service at TCC shortly before time to preach. The distraction and not being able to review my notes again gave me a bit of insecurity.
Now interestingly, I did not receive one comment either on the sermon or on the change in my delivery. That is not really how I judge the success/failure of a sermon, but it seemed noticeable to me, since my method of prep and delivery had been so very different.
The only caveat I would state is that I hope I didn’t just memorize my outline and regurgitate it. I had a list of 10 examples of the importance of the family to God in scripture and I did memorize that list, but I tried not to just memorized the sermon, but instead tried to be open to the flow and moving of the spirit.
Time will tell whether this method works for me, but if last week was any indication, I finished feeling more confident, more connected and having had a lot more fun! (Is that "permitted" in preaching a sermon?)