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Preaching without Notes

Over past several years I have been convicted about preaching and the way I study for it. I assume that conservative pastors at times struggle with the demands of life and how they can faithfully carry out the preaching of the whole council of the Word of God. I have an insatiable desire to preach with authority and to constantly improve my communication, but the most important experience I have had about preaching was when someone who was visiting my church told me that they thought I read my sermon. This convicted me. I did not read my sermon; I preached it with all my heart (even though I had my notes or manuscript in the Pulpit).

As I sought the Lord over this criticism, I have become more and more convinced that it is God’s plan for me to preach without notes. It seems that in important speeches that lawyers give, or when a person speaks from his heart he has a simple message that is born out of passion over the subject he is speaking about. I have found that when I take notes to the pulpit now I am tied to the pulpit and feel like I cannot be as extemporaneous as I want to. If layers will speak to a jury without notes in their closing arguments over earthly considerations, then why should not pastors with heavenly and eternal considerations (which are much more important) speak to their congregations out the fruit of strenuous study? If preaching is truth communicated through personality, then if the truth is just in our heads it will probably never get to the hearts of our people. If we, as pastors cannot remember our sermons or study the next day, why should we expect anyone else to (except by the ministry of the Holy Spirit)?

We must preach with passion and to do that for most (not all) pastors requires them to throw away their notes. I know of very few pastors who can read their sermon manuscripts (or sermon notes) really well. For them I would not change a thing, but for the rest of us, I want to suggest that we change the way we go about expositional preaching and our preparation for it.

I don’t want anyone to think that I am advocating laziness in study. There are too many preachers who don’t spend the time in their study right now in America, and as a result the sermons we hear have very little depth to them (if in fact they are even Biblical). In fact to preach without notes requires more study and a different process of studying. We must begin with the end in mind. We must begin with realizing that we are preaching to the ear and not to the eye. This is the direction God wants my ministry to go, as well as to help others achieve expository preaching without notes.

If all we are is giving information, then we could have people bring their computers and download the sermon and have them read it. Preaching is much more than information. I want to spread a passion for the passion of preaching Christ.

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