Reading your sermon

Discussion in 'Preaching' started by CIT, Dec 27, 2010.

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  1. Reformed Roman

    Reformed Roman Puritan Board Freshman

    I just wanted to post a small note of caution here.

    As long as your not in a recliner with bunny slippers, I see nothing wrong with reading your sermon.

    My Pastor actually did this at my new church and it was great. When you have like 45 minute sermons, and you've been doing hours and hours of studying, it's great when I get to hear everything he studied in that time, in a organized manner.

    I just want to give a slight warning. It's not as much the method but the message. I say pick the best method according to your strengths God has given you, and according to the needs of the congregation. Whether that's a manuscript, an outline, or you just reading off the full sermon.
  2. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Is this a slam against the late Dr. Eugene Scott? If so, you forgot to mention the cigar and the sombrero. :p
  3. TomVols

    TomVols Puritan Board Freshman

    I always advise: don't strive to be note-less; strive to be note-free. Rare is the person who can write for the ear and not for the eye. That said, careful preparation should be made. If you're coing to preach to the same people week in and week out for years, you should be working on your language to make sure you aren't constantly repeating default phrases. Delivery does matter. I'm not saying you're sinning if you don't have glossy fill in the blank outlines and neon Power Point presentations. I am simply saying preaching is verbal communication - an oral act. It is the highest priority and deserves our utmost attention.

    I have to say a word here about the physical construction of the pulpit. Some pulpits are very well designed and can lend themselves to the pastor reading sections or visualizing his notes without losing sight of the congregation. But others are slanted or short, where the pastor looks down and then back up, and he looks like a chicken eating corn. But we probably can't control this. Use your pulpit well. And if you must move around, don't do it to the point that I'm following your motions more than I'm following your words.

    By the way, I would question whether President Obama is all that great of a communicator. Clinton was far more passionate, and Bush was better at enunciation. If you don't believe me, go back and watch the three in order and compare. All of them had their default tendencies.
  4. Reepicheep

    Reepicheep Puritan Board Freshman

    Obviously everyone has an opinion on this...

    Preaching is not delivering a theological paper or doctrinal treatise. Preaching is, among other things, opening up the Word of God to a particular flock and should involve all the personal connection you can muster. Let's be honest- if reading a sermon sufficed, let's get out manuscripts that are better than anything we could muster. I would read Barnhouse's sermons to my congregation...

    What you carry in to the pulpit is unique to each preacher- short outline, extended outline, or manuscript. It doesn't matter so long as you preach the Word to the people, not read a paper to them.

    If you write a manuscript with the intention of reading it, it seems good and engaging when you're writing it, but usually it comes off like a treatise and is generally hard to listen to, no matter what you think. We communicate with an audience differently than we write. Writing doesn't require as many repeated phrases, paradigmatic speech, certain verbal emphasis, etc. Profound writers often struggle to be effective with an audience because there is no ability for the audience to go back and re-hear something, etc.

    I'm sure some people will say- "Well, if it's a faithful exposition of God's Word, who cares if it is read?"

    I guess I think a shepherds job is a bit more thorough than that. We should have the message/sermon so ingrained in our minds and hearts that we could throw away the notes and look the sheep for whom Christ died in the eyes and speak to them fluently, never looking down or anywhere else for that matter.

    This is a good topic for discussion. I am with Fred on this- please don't read sermons to the people of God...they can go to and do that for themselves.
  5. dudley

    dudley Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Phil said "Speaking only as a hearer, I do find it somewhat annoying when very much of sermon is read."
    I agree and my experience as a layman who also teaches public speaking and rhetoric and oratory is that a majority of Protestant ministers I have heard preach the Gospel far surpass my experience with the catholic priests who I listened to for so many years as a catholic and heard a majority of them read their sermons which were often very weak.

    I believe the Protestants have been and continue to be superior in their oratory and public speaking skills over the catholic priests; because they deliver the message from the heart and it is not read. Never read a sermon is the advice I would give to all ministers of the Gospel.
  6. Gesetveemet

    Gesetveemet Puritan Board Sophomore

    You can read the greatest sermon ever written or
    you can preach the greatest sermon ever spoke but
    unless God gives the application neither will
    encourage the saints or save a soul.

  7. PuritanZealot

    PuritanZealot Puritan Board Freshman

    I didn't know this was a common practice, perhaps I am naive of the processes used by most pastors. But my Pastor never reads from a manuscript, he very often has absolutely no idea what he is going to preach about, and one of the deacons told me the other day he sometimes turns up at chapel with three or four passages or subjects in mind and allows the Holy Spirit to guide him. I have witnessed other ministers changing their verse mid sermon, or changing the angle of the subject depending on the Holy Spirits guidance.
    I think this has a lot to do with computers as well, how many of you would write out your manuscript in its entirety by hand and read from it when you had a wednesday evening sermon, a prayer meeting sermon, and two Lords Day sermons to write out? I am not rebuking those who do read from a manuscript, there must be errors in both arguments but traditionally I would have thought the most gifted preachers would have been the ones who could preach the Gospel from the Bible anywhere at anytime. I am reminded that Gadsby, Kershaw, Warburton and Philpot were known as awful stutterers, shy, retiring, quiet, but when in the pulpit turned into loud, rousing firebrands. The Holy Spirit will use the vessel how he pleases.
    The foolish confounding the wise etc...
  8. Gesetveemet

    Gesetveemet Puritan Board Sophomore

    Mr. Fraser

    Our elders sometimes read Philpot and other like minded preachers
    when we lack pulpit supply. We still consider it the word of God
    even though it's a read sermon.

    Last edited: Dec 31, 2010
  9. PuritanZealot

    PuritanZealot Puritan Board Freshman

    Our deacons do the same thing sir, when a preacher isn't available we have a reading sermon and one of the old Gadsby, Philpot et al sermons are ready for the congregation. That is an entirely different subject I think thought and not treated the same as the living word of preaching a minister espouses in a face to face sermon.
  10. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    I wholeheartedly agree with this. Didn't we learn back in High School that when public speaking you don't read a paper to the audience? Just because you have the full manuscript in front of you doesn't necessarily mean you are 'reading' it to the audience.
  11. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    The PCA directory of worship advises "53-3. Preaching requires much study, meditation, and prayer, and ministers
    should prepare their sermons with care, and not indulge themselves in loose, extemporary harangues, nor serve God with that which costs them naught." (This piece is non-constitutional, but still useful).

    As for reading, I would suggest that that reflects a lack in the pastor's training which should be addressed. Of course, if a pastor isn't available to the congregation, then the directives set out in the PCA BCO would provide guidance to other bodies who lack such a document:

    "4-5. Churches without teaching elders ought not to forsake the assembling of themselves together, but should be convened by the Session on the Lord's Day, and at other suitable times, for prayer, praise, the presenting and expounding of the Holy Scriptures, and exhortation, or the reading of a sermon of some approved minister. In like manner, Christians whose lot is cast in destitute regions ought to meet regularly for the worship of God."
  12. Caroline

    Caroline Puritan Board Sophomore

    Although the most gifted preachers might be able to do this, I would strongly advise against assuming that you are that gifted. Perhaps a man has a photographic memory to pull up verses at any time at a moment's notice ... good. But most people do not.

    I had a pastor once (if one can call so odious a man 'pastor', because the fault I am about to describe is by far the least of his problems) who took great pride in never preparing for his sermons. He told me that he just preached whatever the Holy Ghost led him to say.

    "I never spend a moment in preparation," he told me proudly. And to demonstrate this, he lifted the pulpit (it was a small, lightweight pulpit) and shook it upside down to show me that he had no notes on it.

    And, being a smart-mouthed teenager, I gave the obvious smart-mouth response, "Yes, sir, I can tell. You definitely sound like you didn't prepare at all."

    But truthfully, whether I should have said it or not, he did sound that way. He misquoted the Bible constantly, and he really only ever preached on one subject--that women who wore pants were going to hell.

    Of course, that is an extreme example, but I'm just saying .... I think it is possible to go to two different extremes, both of which are destructive. One would be to prepare in advance every line and then stand up and merely read it back word-for-word to the congregation, and the other is to assume that the right words will just come to you with no effort at all. Both are a sort of laziness and/or fear, I think. Public speaking is hard, and it is risky. That's just the way it is. Some people may find easier ways to do it if they are particularly gifted in a certain way, but most of us have to do our work and take the risk.
  13. Parker234

    Parker234 Puritan Board Freshman

    As I understand it, Edwards preached from a full manuscript early in his ministry, but by the end (especially when paper was hard to come by) he ended up using an abbreviated outline. Look at the condition of some of his later manuscripts at the Yale website.
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