I am attempting a major change in my preaching style and it is not going all that well. Several things I have read recently, particularly "Spirit-Led Preaching" [you have picked up that I am reading that, right?] have led me to the conviction that I have to get away from my manuscript preaching. I have used manuscript preaching since 1980. (that’s 28 years, folks!). Before that, I had preached numerous sermons and simply used outlines. But the senior minister I worked under in 1980 always used a manuscript [his sermons were also almost always "borrowed" from others] and he really encouraged me to do the same. And it seemed to work, so I have stuck with preaching from a manuscript for over a quarter of a century (yikes!)
But I have come to realize a couple of things:
- I am not as good at faking that I am using a manuscript as I thought I was.
- By being chained to the manuscript, it is harder for the Holy Spirit to interrupt and take me in a different direction.
My philosophy has been that if the Holy Spirit wants to take me in a certain direction, he is just as able to do it in my prep time just as much as spontaneously from the pulpit. He knows what is going to happen. And that philosophy has meant that I have tried to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit throughout the week in my preparation. That’s good…not bad.
But it is not true that he should, therefore, not be expected to move during my preaching time. And if he wants to, I need to put myself in the best situation to be able to receive that. Eye contact and interaction with the congregation is limited with manuscript preaching. Focus on a manuscript limits my ability to be listening to him while I preach. It sets an unspoken presumption that he isn’t going to speak to change anything.
So…over the past few sermons I determined to take far fewer notes into the pulpit. I KNEW my sermon…the extensive manuscript was really just a crutch based on fear.
But over the past few weeks when I have tried to simply take a brief outline into the pulpit…by taking notes from my mss and only taking that into the pulpit…my notes basically have just duplicated my manuscript. "I can’t leave THAT out!" "I think it is important to phrase this just like this." "It is important to have the introduction/transitions/conclusion [whatever] written out so that it goes smoothly."
Today first service, I floundered worse than ever. So, after I had given the welcome and greeting time in second service, I retreated to my office and basically re-worked the sermon and went back to more of a manuscript format. The sermon second service was smoother, but it is not the direction I want to go.
Part of it pride…I have 25+ of preaching experience. I don’t want to sound like a beginner. I serve a congregation that both in size and expectation does not want a beginner. But there has to be some format in which I can grow in using less or no notes without doing a disservice to the body to whom I preach. We’ll see.
What I probably need are training wheels for preaching (thus the above picture). Ideas? Suggestions?