Tuesday, November 22, 2011

MP3: Noteless Preaching

Since August I've been trying to preach without notes, although I've bottled it a couple of times and reverted to a short outline that I've reached to from my back pocket.

On Sunday morning and evening I held my nerve as I preached from Acts 2:33 on Jesus Ascended for my good friends at Reading Family Church. You can listen to the morning mp3 here: RFC Resources. I think the evening one was slightly better and a few minutes longer than the 30min first run.

The whole experience of going noteless has huge advantages - no lectern, no notes to look at, no need to break your eye-contact with people, no formality of words... and everything seems to flow better. The cost is sometimes a little lack of precision in language, though not much if you work at it and continue to love language and reading as I do, because really the cost is in much more preparation time, internalising the message and believing it... which is no bad thing! It means that what I preach isn't the transfer of my notes to the congregations notes, but rather a message that has affected my heart, held out to their hearts. The downside is it might be an excuse to prepare less and wing it, but if we take preaching seriously it'll require more preparation not less to go without notes.

Might not be the best way for everyone but I'm enjoying it.

Noteless preaching means you can't be complex (though that doesn't mean you can't have depth), you need a coherent argument - a story even - and you're going to benefit from really letting the text shape your message...

I'm still learning. How do you do it?


  1. You been reading Andy Stanley's "Communicating for a Change?"

    PS Last Sunday was the best I have ever heard you. (Not that I have heard you often... ;-)

  2. I keep meaning to read Stanley... book budget keeps being spent on nappies and baby formula...

  3. Sorry Dave, I am not with you on this one. Preaching from notes or script, done well, shouldn't involve broken eye-contact, formality of words or bad flow. In fact the flow should be better. Nor should it mean that it is internalised any less - or it simply wasn't a good sermon to start with. I am almost always aware of more power from the Lord whenh I am scripted than when I'm not.

    For my money everyone should have a full script and very nearly everyone preaches better, not worse, for it. The simple reason being that they have to think very hard about expressing things precisely on the one hand and gloriously on the other. There is also the aspect that, as preachers, we are standing at the front saying "this is true on God's authority." We had better be prepared to defend that after the event, and knowing exactly what we said is important.

    None of which isn't to say that we stick rigidly to script. We ought to feel completely free to divert from it as we are led in the process of preaching. But the suggestion that scripted preaching is inherently less Spirit-led or Spirit-filled than noteless preaching is simply incorrect (not that you are making that claim, but others do). The Holy Spirit is just as capable of working through written work done in the study and then well-presented as he is through non-written.

    I like your diagram of how you went through your suffering talk, mind.

  4. You're right Marcus, of course!

    Un-internalised preaching is just bad preaching.

    I suppose what I'm getting at is saying, lets really get it into us - and if its really in us do we need the notes? Perhaps, perhaps not. I wouldn't (and am not) saying its the best or necessary approach, just one worth considering.

    I still write a script and seek to craft it carefully, the only difference was I then prepared to not need to refer to it.

  5. Dave, it's good to hear that you've been trying noteless. I preached with notes for a decade, and now without for almost a decade. It took a "requirement" in a preaching class for me to start, but I wouldn't go back. I would say the ideal is to work on a full manuscript, but take only the Bible into the preaching moment. Everyone who resists tends to talk about about how much eye contact they have still (until they actually time it on a video recording!) The key thing isn't really preaching technique, for me, it is about communication and connection with the listeners.

  6. I don't think it matters. Do what works for you. A far more serious concern to me is sermons that are stylistically the same as 50 years ago.

  7. Tom. Agreed it doesn't really matter too much either way.
    Go on... what's the 1961 style you don't want to see, and what would be good for today?