Close this search box. – The Extemporaneous Mode of Preaching

Here is a great lecture by Dr. John Carrick on Extemporaneous preaching and the need for it as the primary method of delivery sermons.   He sums up this method in the end in contrast by saying “Paper is a very porr medium from which to carry fire.”  Listen and enjoy and let me know what you think if this.

Summary of message:
Dr. John Carrick believes that the best mode or method of delivery of sermons is the extemporaneous method by a long shot.  he even gives the example of Jonathan Edwards move toward an extemporaneous mode of preaching later on in life.  
Dr. Carrick goes on to describe the 3 modes of preaching – Verbatim Reading Method (Manuscript), Verbatim “Memory” Method, and the Extemporaneous Method.  
The problem in evangelical and reformed circles it seems that the Reading of a manuscript (sometimes with improv) is the common mode.  The problem of the easy style of preaching is not that the matter is bad or that the structure is bad or there is no passion at all, but that it is not living speech – it lacks eloquence – the living dynamic element.  This sentiment is owned by Martin Lloyd Jones, John Broadus, and Charles Spurgeon because of the belief that anything that makes you lose living contact is bad.  al Martin says to his students, “Never read from a full manuscript in the pulpit” or you will be settling for mediocrity.  While you can be edifying and preach good sermons you will settle for mediocrity.  
The next method subject to some of the same issues as the manuscript method is the Verbatim Memory Method.  It is the most difficult and the least practiced today, but doesn’t salve the problem of mechanical delivery.  Shedd says of this method that “the mind is in shackles to the memory.”  Dabney says, “the mind cannot feel the emotion of the truth when it is preched.”  Spurgeon says that this method is “wearisome to the point of the neglect of superior faculities.”

The Extemporaneous method (EP) is the final method and the one he is encouraging all preachers to use.  He says that this method is NOT:
  • without premeditation
  • without preparation
  • impromptu
  • ex hihilo (like an improv)
  • by memory as a master (only as a servant)
  • without outline notes that are limited to 1 page.  

Extemporaneous preaching is preaching in the “Grand Manner” which is

  • out of the time 
  • out of the moment

Yes there are risks, the unknown, you don’t know how long the sermons are going to last, and you don’t know the authority that God may bless you with untill that moment, but this method has been used widely in the reformation, the early church, the great awakenings, and in the modern missionary movement because of the advantages of free utterance.  

Dr. John Carrick then goes on to list the difficulties: 
  1. Spirit of Fear – Blunders in grammer and diction do occur, but this is not limited to extemporaneous method.  Readers and memorizers have these problems because they don’t think on their feet.  Men not capable of failing cannot be eloquent and will settle for medocracy in their preaching.  they may not know the depths of failure at times but neither will they know the highs of preaching either.  
  2. Slothfulness – after a time a man may abuse is faculty and become lazy in preparation.  An extemporaneous preacher must always be working with the text , struggling with the text, cogitating the text, and analyzing the text or otherwise it may denigrate to improv or impromptu delivery.  Extemporaneous preaching is not a pillow for a idle head (Spurgeon).
  3. Repetition / Redundancy – A preacher could have a problem in rambling or keeping a tight reign on his tongue.  An Extemporaneous preacher must avoid verbal redundancy.  The antidote to this is the consecutive expository preach method.   In other words all of these disadvantages can be negated unlike the disadvantages in other modes or methods of preaching delivery.  
Then Dr. Carrick explains the advantages in an effort to help one to understand the preeminence of extemporaneous preaching (EP).  The advantages include:
  1. Enhances the Concentration of Preachers – EP secures the concentration like a soldier who is aroused in every faculty in battle.  It creates a friction of truth upon the mind (Dabney), so as to enable a preacher to present more impressively by enabling him to think on his feet. 
  2. Enhances the Ra-pore Between the Preacher and the Hearers – by hansing the consentration of the hearers as well.  We are in a battle for the concentration of the hearers, and in order to win this battle we must break our matter up and down for them.  Reading a sermon is too demanding for the hearer in htis density of matter and impact of delivery.  
  3. Enhances Harmony between Words and Action (Gestures) – Gives integrativeness and naturalness to the preacher as he moves and speaks with his body as well as words.
  4. Enhances Liberty and Freedom of the PreachersFreedom is the essence of the act of Preaching (Martin Lloyd Jones).  It gives clarity, joy, ease, authority, power, etc.  in the moment of preaching.  It gives you the feeling you are not doing the preaching and are just the Instrument of God. 
  5.  Enhances Animation – Action, Action, Action (delivery, delivery, delivery) is the rule that gives Orators power.  the sermon of the body is just as crucial as what you say.  As Whitfield preach his whole body came alive with truth and his whole countenance shown forth.  Whitfield states that “You can publish my sermons only if you can put don the thunder and lightening.”
Finally Dr. John Carrick describe how to preach Extemporaneously in the following admonishments:
  1. Avoid full Manuscripts – Especially for young preachers.  Don’t begin the habit.  
  2. Make a Resolution to break free from full manuscript.   Reduce you sermons, reduce your notes, and get into your head.  Only take a 1 page skeleton into the pulpit at the most (Al Martin.)  Prepare your sermon carefully by being diligent and writing a great deal.  
  3. Study – Thorough preparation.  Study for many hours by wrestling with the text, structuring the sermon, putting on flesh and muscle on the skeleton.  Keep writing alot – fixing your  subject in your heart, mind, and soul.  Don’t make the mistake by not working enough at this.  You must master and be mastered by you material.   Live with your sermons through the week.  Chewing the cud as it were.  Ruminate on it our of your licving.  If you are poorly prepared you will have little power.   Rumination creates Animation.
  4. Constatnt Practice.  Preach without notes habitually and with consistently 
  5. Conscious Dependence on the Holy Spirit.  If the preacher is dependent on the manuscript or memory there are 2 prisoners – the preacher and the Spirit (and thus Christ).  Paper is a silent servant and like fire it is a good servant but a bad master.  
Paper is a a poor medium from which to carry fire (in preaching)!!!!!

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