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Confessions of a Manuscript Preacher

I preach better when I semi-read a sermon.

I have a recurring nightmare. Having grown up in the Roman Catholic tradition, I'm kneeling in the dim light of the confessional booth. "Forgive me, father, for I have sinned."

The deep voice on the other side of the thin wall responds, "What sins do you wish to confess, my child?"

I'm startled. I know ...

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Displaying 1–5 of 19 comments

Douglas Felton

November 05, 2012  3:43pm

Good article. I was taught at Dallas Seminary to preach without notes. It was a disaster for me. I understand the advantage of being free to make eye contact with the congregation but the disadvantages were far greater. I have evolved from no notes to an outline to using a manuscript and am a much better preacher for it. I memorize a good bit of it (75% to 80%) which gives me considerable freedom. But the real advantage is in having thought through my message carefully and exactly how I want to communicate it. If I want to add something in the moment, I have that freedom as well.

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Curt Blackwill

October 15, 2012  10:50am

I have been preaching for 23 years and have always used a manuscript - which I call "expanded notes". There have been times when I have tried preaching without notes and it was a disaster. I was all over the place. The one "bad" think that I don't do, is I don't read scripture from the Bible when I preach and this is because I will often times use different translations in my sermon. The other thing I do is I always include a half-page, front and back, detailed notes of the sermon that include the main points, Scriptures and titles of Illustrations. This helps the church folks follow along with me and we use them in our small groups. Thanks for this Great Article!

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Gary Karas

October 15, 2012  10:17am

Mark, I too remember the confessional and am an introvert! I have been preaching for about 20 years and I too am most comfortable with a manuscript. I admire people who can preach with just an outline or without any notes any all. That's just not me. I have found that when I have ventured out with fewer notes, I missed a lot of important insights from my study. I agree that God is as much involved in the process of building a sermon as He is in its delivery. Thanks ark for "easing my conscience" once again about using a manuscript and thanks for the other helpful tips. This article is a keeper!

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Eric Forgrave

June 06, 2012  4:01pm

I agree with and had found all the benefit listed as true to my experience (especially the introvert piece). One other benefit of writing out a full manuscript vs. an outline is you have that content to look back to when doing other study or if someone has a question about something that passage deals with. Just this week I looked back at sermon content when doing study on prayer this week.

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Rick Robart

May 25, 2012  1:11pm

I was taught to preach without notes. It was very stressful. I used to take an outline to the pulpit, yet I was missing many important ideas. Lately, I have been using a manuscript. I feel so much less stress and a freedom I have not felt in years.

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