Last week some of my students reflected on what they had learned during their two terms of preaching courses with me. I always hope for something positive! This time there was surprisingly strong affirmation of 'preaching without notes'. I say surprising because this element of the course often provokes the most fear and resistance. Yet, several students said that this was the most valuable thing they had learned.
One very experienced preacher (with over two decades' experience) commented: ' By making me preach without notes you have totally transformed my preaching. Now the sermon comes from "inside me" and I connect with my people in completely different ways. I can never go back to where I was'.
Last term another student preached their first sermon refusing to depart from reading a full manuscript. Sadly, the sermon was delivered head-down, hesitantly and with maximum dullness. This term, the contrast was as striking as any I have ever witnessed. With radiance the same student held us captive with a thoroughly prepared biblical sermon that danced with life (and ended with singing). Instead of multiple (really multiple!) Scripture quotes and dense written material that kept tripping the student up, the sermon was prepared 'for the ear' and delivered with passion. How the whole class rejoiced!
As I was considering these comments I received a draft chapter from an academic friend that he is submitting for publication called: Preaching without notes. It's a good chapter and it has made me think some more about this subject. I shall need a couple more posts I think.