When In Doubt, Sound It Out

Sometimes preparation grinds to a halt.  You feel like you’re drowning in a sea of paper, half-finished thoughts, words and scribbles everywhere.  Even with a good system for organizing your pre-sermon study and message notes, it is still possible to feel stuck.  You’ve gone from a sprint to crawl and the open expanse before you now feels like a brick wall in a cluttered alley.  I don’t think I am alone in experiencing this roadblock in preparation.

There are lots of tips that people share, but one stands head and shoulders above the others from my perspective. Of course you should pray, it may be wise to do something else, perhaps get some exercise to clear the brain jam or even sleep, the natural thought organizer.  But head and shoulders above them all (or at least one always worth trying in combination with some of the others) – use oral preparation for oral communication.

It’s not surprising that words on paper sometimes feel overwhelming when we are actually preparing for an oral form of communication, not a written one.  So stand up, Bible in hand, and preach it.  It may still feel jumbled and confused, but it is amazing how quickly a flowing and organized message can form when it is formed orally rather than on paper.

Then you can shift into reverse and write your notes and/or manuscript!  It is worth going back to paper for a couple of reasons.  Sometimes you can really nail it orally, but then be unable to do so again.  The discipline of going back to paper helps to cement the preparation.  If you understand that an outline is simply a representation of thought structures, then it should be straightforward to outline a series of thoughts that have formed in the oral presentation.  Furthermore, even if you preach without notes, the discipline of writing the outline or manuscript will provide a focus for further preparation, and a record for future re-preaching of the same passage.

Oral preparation need not replace paper preparation, but it can act as a turbo boost to the preparation process!

One thought on “When In Doubt, Sound It Out

  1. Great advice – I’d guess a lot of preachers wrestle with the same thing. I started typing my sermons out in manuscript form a while back, and often times would get stuck, just as you described. Sometimes the only way to work out the mental blocks was to walk to the sanctuary, Bible and notepad in hand, and work it out aloud (hoping of course no one had slipped in and was listening!). If you’re going back to the computer to type what you just tried to work out orally, perhaps a recorder of some sort would be helpful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.