Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
A Community of Prayer Champions, Praying Churches, Prayed-for Communities
It has been some time since I have written a blog on preaching. In fact, you will have to scroll down past 10 blogs to May 9, in Thinking In The Spirit to find my last entry in this series. You have to scroll down 5 more to find the first of them. But I recently heard a sermon that made me long to emphasize keys to preaching without notes. The sermon I heard was taken from Colossians 3 & 4. And it contained vital truths for our lives. The preacher’s text began at Colossians 3:12 and reached down to 4:6. Earlier someone else read the entire passage. And he did not read its entirety in the sermon. This worked well. The preacher began by noting verse 16 of chapter 3 which begins,
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”
And he correctly pointed out that the the gospel informs every area of our lives. I thought his introduction was good. He related the word of God dwelling in us richly, to a feast. If I were only preaching on this verse, I would have noted thatthe gospel dwelling in us means it makes itself at home in our lives.
But from there he wandered through the verses bringing out some good truths. This is the Bible after all. But he could hardly remember what came next, with long pauses to find where he was in his notes. By the time he finished, the rest of us were as confused as he was.
1. The first thing I would have suggested to him would have been to Organize Points to Clarify His Thoughts.
If your thoughts are not clear, you will not remember them. And neither will anyone else. A great way to do this is to develop a sentence out of the central idea of his sermon, so he could state each of his points with a slight word change in that sentence. The central idea of his text would have been, “The gospel drives everything in our lives.” He could have begun his sentence, “The gospel drives. .”
The first point would be,
“The Gospel Drives Our Worship.”
Verse 16 continues,
“teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
I would point out that teaching and encouraging one another are part of worship. This thought is continued in verse 7. But worship does include music. And our singing must be driven by the gospel. You may preach to people who feel like our musical worship should be driven by our emotions. But our emotions should be stirred by what we sing. Can you worship when you are in a bad mood? Of course. Grace is still amazing when you feel down. And when worship focuses on God’s love or His grace, they lift your emotions by the gospel.
The next point would be,
“The Gospel Drives Our Relationships, or maybe Family Relationships.”
Verse 18 reads,
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”
“Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”
Verse 20 says,
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”
You might include the next verses in relationships, or you might make it a new point.
“The Gospel Drives Our Work Life.”
The next five verses from 3:22 through 4:1 deal with this subject.
“Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”
The next point would be,
“The Gospel Drives Our Prayer Life.”
Verse 2 of chapter 4 reads,
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”
This point could easily be the last. But as the sermon I heard treated the passage, it would have another point
“The Gospel Drives Our Passion For Missions.”
“At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.”
2. My next suggestion for preaching without notes is BREVITY.
I need to admit that my primary reason for thinking preaching should be shorter than the current trend is not so you can remember what you want to say. My main reason is that people will get more if you do not overwhelm them with material. If you take several weeks to preach through a subject, they will remember more. They will even have opportunity to put some of what you tell them into practice This should be encouraged as an important part of learning. But I don’t believe this is the law of the Meads and Persians. I just heard the testimony of Becket Cook as Eric Metaxis interviewed him. He said after he was saved, his pastor preached hour long sermons, and he just couldn’t get enough. I also found that preaching in many places overseas needs to be longer. There I preached as many as three sermons at once. Or even better, we had three or four preachers.
I don’t disagree with preachers who say, “We should be willing to listen longer to spiritual things.” But I am convinced that people retain more, if we break what God gives us to say into several sermons. I know people can watch a three hour movie, or binge watch an entire TV series in a week. But those are different mediums. You have heard the phrase, “Cut to the chase.” Motion pictures are more action than intellectual content. I have said, “If I were approached by someone who wanted to turn one of my novels into a motion picture, I would be reluctant. That is because, with a few exceptions, movies don’t deliver spiritual depth very well. Your sermon needs some excitement. But even your stories are illustrations of deeper points. And, yes, if your sermons are not quite so long, you will be less likely to need notes.
3. Finally, one of the most important factors in preaching without notes is PREPARATION.
I always composed my sermons out loud. But when I had time, I would still preach them over, usually several times. If your sermon is haphazardly organized, this won’t help as much. You would have to memorize every word. I know preachers who do this effectively. But I honestly don’t know how they do it. But if your points fit together, you can go over them when you drive or mow the lawn.
I appreciate all the feedback I got on the earlier blogs on this subject. One of the men who commented on a Facebook page where I posted them said, “This wouldn’t work for me.” He may have been right. But he may have been saying, “That is out of my comfort zone.” Communicating the gospel is important enough that it is worth stretching yourself to see if it makes your sermons better. I am convinced that it will, even if you do not adopt my methods in the long run.