Preparing in Silence?

“A lot of preachers are introverts because they need to be able to prepare on their own for hours.”  “Preaching is an oral event, yet the preparation of outlining and manuscripting is all pursued using written language skills.”  “Silence is the soil in which sermons sprout.”

All statements with some truth to them.  But also all statements that indicate a subtle tension between preparation and delivery of a spoken sermon.  A lot of preachers are introverts, perhaps for the reason stated.  So much of our preaching training is essentially an adaptation of skills for producing written work.  And there is a definite place for silence in the context of walking with Christ – as essential if preaching is truly a “God-event.”

So this post is not about turning all preparation upside down and advocating sermon preparation with loud music on, or in the midst of conversation.  (Actually there are preachers that find it helpful to do the message formation phase of their preparation in a public place – like Starbucks – in order to be able to better think through who they will be speaking to . . . a thought to ponder, perhaps.)

A couple of suggestions, though, in light of the oral nature of preaching:

1. Don’t just pray then prepare, but pray during out loud preparation. That is, don’t just pray and then work on the sermon.  Try praying as you prepare.  Talk through your thinking out loud, in conversation with the Lord.  Say your thoughts out loud, and also talk about what you are saying.  Why not?  It might help your thoughts to form in coherent oral form, it might help your prayer to be more than introductory, it might help you notice when your mind has drifted away from the task at hand for the last twenty minutes!

2. Don’t always write, then talk, but invert the process. We are trained to pray, then read, then write, then talk.  Why in that order?  Why not keep the prayer going throughout, but instead read, then talk, then write?  Often a written sermon won’t deliver well, but a well-delivered sermon can always be written in some form or other.  Talking through the message earlier in the week will almost certainly help you know where you are in the process far more than looking at your notes will!

Preaching is a spoken event.  Perhaps we need to prepare appropriately.

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One thought on “Preparing in Silence?

  1. Yes, Peter, this captures the deeply relational calling of the Gospel: to engage our life with Christ in every way possible.

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