Saturday, November 08, 2008

Preaching with Notes

Hi Jim,

There is a huge spectrum of opinions on whether preachers should use notes, no notes, manuscripts, or whatever. You use manuscripts, I've read homiletics books on how to preach with no notes at all. I've heard good sermons where the preacher used a manuscript and I've heard bad sermons where the preacher used very few notes.

I teach homiletics here at Greyfriars' Hall and what I tell my students is to experiment with all the different ways of doing it. I tell them to do the experimenting in small group situations rather than in the sermon on Sunday, if at all possible. Of course in the pulpit is where the real rubber meets the road, but it is good to work on the changes in a safer environment before springing it on your congregation, if you can.

One thing I would suggest is to read books on how to formulate a sermon for preaching. John Broadus has a very elementary book on creating the sermon. John MacArthur’s introduction to preaching suggests several ways of doing it. Though it is important to point out that he has moved past what he says in his book and says so in the book.

The way I suggest for you to move from manuscript to outline is, since you listen to Doug's sermons, download the sermon notes from our web site and read them as Doug goes through the sermon. He uses the same notes in the pulpit that we have on line and you can see how he reads and interjects other stuff at the same time. You will see that his sermon notes are actually not an outline, but not really manuscript either. He has learned to do this very well and the style has served him well over the years so that he is able to turn his notes into books and if he wants to teach the same topic in the future there is enough information in the notes for him to use them again without having to restudy the whole issue.

The problem that most new preachers have is that when they go from manuscript to more of an outline they lose their place as soon as they look up to talk. Sometimes they say something at the front of the sermon they had planned to say at the end. Sometimes they completely forget to say things they wanted to say. But God is in charge and he rules the man and the sermon and when it is all over you have to give it all to God and ask him to bless your labors.

The problem with manuscripts is usually that they cause the sermon to be very wooden and tight. The congregation gets the sense that they don't really need to be there at all. The preacher is just talking to his notes and there is no personal interaction between him and his flock

Some pitfalls to watch out for would be: (1) First the temptation to chase rabbits all over the field. Sometimes you will say something that catches your imagination, but wasn't part of your original intention. You have to make the immediate decision as to whether this new topic is helpful to the situation or not helpful. The problem is that sometimes these are the kinds of things the Holy Spirit gives you in the middle of the sermon that need to be said, sometimes not. (2) The second thing to watch out for is that you don't want to illustrate illustrations. In Doug's style of notes the main point is in the notes. He often stops reading to elaborate on a point and sometimes this involves an illustration. But sometimes a guy can get caught up in the illustration and he will say something that is difficult and he thinks that point needs to be illustrated and so off he goes illustrating illustrations. (3) The advantage of less notes is that you can be personal with your people, that is a good thing, the down side, however, is that sometimes guys have a tendency to become flippant and too informal. We need to remember that we are representing God and speaking for the Lord Jesus. So there needs to be a measure of, what Lewis called, solempne in our bearing and presence in the pulpit. There needs to be a joyful seriousness; a solemn cheer; a simple but deep elegance.

I hope this helps,

Friday, November 07, 2008

Parable of the Sower

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

Before we were married (5 yrs. ago), my husband gave his life to Christ in his home by himself. That same week, he joined a bible believing church and was baptized within a month. He also became part of a bible study on the purpose driven life. I saw the change in my husband and got back together with him when he asked for my hand in marriage. (I broke off our relationship three months earlier because I became a Christian and he was not). Once we were engaged to be married, my husband slowly became indifferent to Jesus Christ, transferring the Love he had for Christ onto me. He always had a hard time showing love but now it was like my dream come true. He now goes through the motions of going to church and serving once in a while, but has NO interest in a personal relationship with Christ, growing spiritually, reading his bible, or Christian books. Instead, he's friends with the world, feeding himself on the Internet, T.V., secular movies, and books. I now feel like I've been deceived. Is it possible he's not saved?


Given what you've said here it is very possible that he is not saved. When you read the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 you see that the seed fell on 3 different kinds of soil.

In one kind of soil nothing happened at all. In the next 2 kinds something happened but faith did not ultimately "take." Only the last kind of soil produced fruit and thus was saved in the end. It is possible that your husband is one of the second or third kind of soils.

It is also possible that he doesn't know any manly Christian men and so he has just fallen to the side until he meets one. When men come into contact with the kind of Christianity that is lead by women or by men pretending to be women they often fall away from what they think is the faith. It could be that all your husband needs is a real man of God to lead him to the real God of the Bible, the one who raises nations and tears them down, who fights wars and destroys strongholds.

If I were you I would pray that God would bring a truly godly man into my husband's life and that God would open your husband's eyes to see the difference and want to be part of the real Kingdom of God.

I hope this helps,