My friend and colleague just posted some thoughts on the benefits of writing your sermons out in full here, often called full-manuscripting. At the present time, I do not write my sermons out word for word, but I respect and agree with the thoughts of the pastors who do. I write a detailed outline, and I think out my sermons very precisely in my mind. But, if it helps you in your structure, clarity, and delivery, then I would encourage you to put full-manuscripting into practice. But, may I suggest to you that you should not bring your manuscript with you to the pulpit? Here are my five reasons:
1. Tempted to read: while many men, including Eric, do not read their manuscript, many men do. Men I respect. But, it affects the delivery, and usually not in a good way. By leaving your manuscript on your desk, you will be forced to deliver in a different manner, covered in the next few points.
2. Conversational: when you speak from your heart, without adherence to a word for word manuscript, you literally carry your voice and gestures in a different way. You become conversational and thus you are much easier to listen to. Communication experts will tell you that the elevated tone and stricter body movements one uses when reading are not received by today’s audiences the way they used to. We respond better to natural and conversational speakers.
3. Eye contact: your audience will always be more compelled by you when they see you looking at them. You cannot catch everyone’s eye, but when they see you catch someone’s eye, it makes it real, intense, connective. That is just basic human communication phenomena.
4. The freedom for the Spirit: OK, I know a lot of you are now thinking this can be an easy excuse for long, uncontrolled, winding sermons. That is not what I mean. But, I think it is a good thing to have less commitment to a word for word manuscript so that the Spirit can work to speak through you in an unplanned manner. Couldn’t he have inspired you in your writing? Yes, but he also likes to speak in the moment from time to time. Spurgeon speaks to this and we all know Spurgeon was almost always right, right? (wink).
5. It forces mental imaging in your preparation: the point of writing out a sermon is outlined in Eric’s blog. Those are great points. But, what if you could do the same thing by means of mental imaging? And, once it’s in your mind, you got it. Notes can be lost. Notes can blow away in the wind. But, your internalization of your sermon cannot be compromised by deleterious forces surrounding you. And, you can tweak and contextualize on the fly. If a service has too many other components and you need to shorten up, you can. If you sense a different type of audience and need to elevate or bring down, you can. Either way, the internalized sermon is the way to go.
Give it try. Again, be committed to clarity, control, and a strong delivery – but force your brain to get there without the aid of a manuscript in front of you. I bet you will find more freedom and impact.