Maximum Content, Minimum Loss of Contact

Just listening to Fred Craddock and he was asked about notes versus no notes.  His bottom line was that you want to have maximum content, with a minimum loss of contact with the listener.  He also suggested that every preacher should be fully competent at preaching without notes, with notes and with full manuscript.  Why?

Full manuscript preaching will be helpful when the subject is controversial.  It allows for people to see exactly what was said, and allows for precision from the preacher.  I was asked to preach on Euthanasia a few years ago.  Full manuscript.  It simply wasn’t possible to internalize all the content of that message (not least because it wasn’t rooted in a single text).

Notes are useful in preaching, Craddock said, when “there’s a lot of tiptoeing and maneuvering in the sermon to get through it.”  This is a problem in too many sermons, but there may be occasions where it is necessary.  Too often a sermon makes good sense to the preacher because they have the notes map in front of them and they know exactly where they’ve come from and where they’re going.  But often the listener is as lost as a toddler in a forest.

“Usually, if you prepare for delivery rather than for writing, you will know it by the time you get through preparing.”  I agree with this and tend to preach without notes.  But I also agree with his follow-up comment.  These three approaches are not stages through which the preacher graduates.  While no notes may generally be the preferred option, it is not a point of achievement to grab attention from listeners.  It is a choice the preacher makes dependent on the message and the situation.  Sometimes, as a generally no notes preacher, I will do well to use a full manuscript.

Content and contact to the max.

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4 thoughts on “Maximum Content, Minimum Loss of Contact

  1. Hi Peter,
    any suggestions on moving from full manuscripts to notes or even no notes? I’ve developed a habit of manuscripting all my sermons, and bringing up the manuscripts with me. I personally don’t think I read my manuscript in an obvious manner, but its a nice security blanket I suppose.

  2. Very prescient post. It’s really not about deciding which mode of delivery is superior, but about which one is most desirable in the particular situation at hand. I’d expand that to say the need for that sort of flexibility extends to the type of sermon as well, not merely the question of notes/no notes. Meaning, as a committed expository guy, I need to recognize there may be times when a more textual, or even topical variant is the way to go. We need to hear Lloyd-Jones’s constant admonition not to be so tied to our individual way of doing things that we cannot be challenged, arrested, and redirected by the Holy Spirit.

    • I would say that a true expository commitment allows me to shift aspects of my message, but to remain truly expository. So I can do an expository-topical message, or an expository-textual message, or whatever. The point is to retain a commitment to the role of the text, whatever text or texts I am using in my sermon. Many confuse expository preaching as a philosophy of preaching with a form of preaching (eg., single passage, certain number of verses, certain form of sermon, etc.) . . . expository preaching is not about form. This is a common misunderstanding.

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