OK. After three weeks of extemporaneous preaching, I am beginning to adjust (or see the need to adjust) how I prepare my sermons and the structure of my sermons. This week was a fairly normal week in how I prepared…old patterns and routines But when I got ready to preach this morning, I realized that I had given myself an almost impossible task. It is not uncommon for me to include quite a few cross references. I don’t always use them all, but generally there are a number of cross references in my sermons. You interpret scripture through scripture, so while it is not necessarily “bouncing” from scripture to scripture, I recognize that is a characteristic of my preaching.
I realized I was in trouble when I went to put those sticky-note flags in my Bible at the point where the cross references were located. I had TWENTY (count them TWENTY) cross references in this morning’s notes. That is even a bit much for me. But it suddenly struck me… “I won’t be able to remember when these verses are to be used. And the panic sunk in…this outline is WAY too complicated for me to preach. Add in all of the cross references and I have made this sermon almost impossible to preach! It is OK if they are in your notes and you are basically preaching from you notes or manuscript. But in extemporaneous preaching you want to totally stay away from notes…including the safety net of knowing which scriptures to use when.
As we approached time to preach, my head kept swimming: “Which of these cross references should I delete? How can I remember which ones to delete?” I decided just to preach and if there were ones that God naturally brought to my mind, I would use them and if he didn’t, then I wouldn’t stress about it.
There were a couple that needed to be used because they made a specific point: I Thess 2:13 illustrated the difference between παραλαμβάνω (paralambanō) and δέχομαι (dechomai) which is important to the use of δέχομαι in Acts 17:11; and Acts 17:4 contrasts the evangelistic fruit in Thessalonica as opposed to Berea. I also knew I needed to use Lk. 19:12 and 1 Cor. 1:26 because they show the usage of εὐγενής eugené̄s [of noble birth] which is important to this text. In the end, I just quoted the pertinent parts of those verses without giving the reference or turning to it in my Bible.
But frankly, I left out almost all of the rest of the references. Whether or not the sermon was better without them or not, I don’t know. But I knew if I was going to stick with extemporaneous preaching, I would not be able to use all of them.
FWIW, here is my outline:
Christians of Nobility
THEME: You and I are “more noble” when we set aside personal considerations in order to discern, and do, God’s will as found in the Bible.
I. The Bereans received the Word eagerly
II. The Bereans examined the Word regularly.
III. The Bereans believed the Word wholeheartedly
IV. We Would do well to imitate the Bereans faithfully.
I concluded with some of the findings of the Willow Creek Community Church REVEAL study.
I already am thinking through how I will outline the sermon on elders for Nov. 2. (I am out of town next Sunday and so “my” (sounds pretty possessive, doesn’t it) youth minister is going to preach).