Stephen commented on part 1 of the “no notes” post. Please read his comment there. He referred to the fact that some famous speakers carry a manuscript into the pulpit. “The defense of using a manuscript I have been told is to ensure every thought is well developed and theologically sound.” Thoughts on the issue of the manuscript:
1. If possible, fully manuscript your message. I totally agree with these reasons for writing a manuscript – every thought should be fully developed and theologically sound. There is no excuse for preaching undeveloped thought or unsound concepts. This is why I avoid the phrase “extemporaneous” preaching, since people understand that to mean “spontaneous” preaching rather than “prepared, but without notes” (the dictionary gives both meanings). This is also why I encourage the writing of a full manuscript. It allows for both developed thought and doctrinal soundness. It also allows for attention to the details of style, precision in the choice of individual words, use of rhetorical devices, avoidance of unhelpful reduncancy, injection of deliberate aids to oral clarity and so on.
2. Don’t take your manuscript into the pulpit. I would guess that some of the big name speakers who advocate manuscript preaching do not actually read their manuscript verbatim. I’ve yet to hear someone preach from a manuscript effectively – although some who have a manuscript treat it as notes rather than a script. I find when I type a full manuscript that a lot of the extra work will show during delivery (the work of manuscripting internalizes the message, even specific wording). I prefer the connection I feel with the listeners now I preach without notes, but the real issue is the listeners, what is the most effective way to communicate with them?
3. Write your manuscript for the ear. If you are going to write a manuscript, it is important to write as you will speak. We have all learned to write for the eye. We place high value on succinct, clear and varied content. But we need to write for the ear. This means using restatement, sometimes repetition, short sentences, consistent terminology, very deliberate transitions, and so on. A thoroughly effective sermon, when transcribed, requires editing before it reads well. When going in the other direction, we need to pay careful attention to our style. The question is not does it look good on paper, but does it communicate when people can’t see it? Listeners cannot look back and reread a sentence, nor hear the underlining of a section title, so we must not speak in written English! Is it written for the ear?
4. Preaching requires a commitment both to the Bible and to the listener. As a preacher you must give yourself to diligent study of the text and thoroughly biblical content. At the same time, preaching involves maximum connection and effective communication with the listener. Write a manuscript, but preach without notes – in my mind this approach achieves both!