I had the chance to preach three times last summer at The Macrina Community, which my wife, Sarah, and I led throughout the summer. It’s been an interesting experience, preaching to such an intimate and small community (the first time I preached, there were two people; this last time there were four). When I was writing the first sermon, I sat down and took care of it the good ‘ole Princeton way—manuscript style: thought through what I wanted to say, typed it up, had my manuscript with me and preached from it. To two people.
So, that was probably more my fault than Princeton’s (using a manuscript while preaching to two people)—but I’m not the first to think that perhaps taking preaching courses at Princeton Seminary messed up my ability to preach. It’s not like I was the world’s best preacher before going to Princeton, but I felt very comfortable in front of a church, working off an outline, engaging in a more conversational style of preaching. After just one year of preaching at Princeton, I felt like I was 100% stuck to the manuscript. I’d type it up, and then try to preach a more conversational sermon, and it just didn’t work.
So, like others I’m sure, after a preaching course and post-seminary, I think I’m (re)learning how to preach and perhaps figuring out what style works well for me right now. The past two times I’ve preached at Macrina, it’s gone very well. What I’ve been doing is to start out by sitting down with the text, thinking about where I want to go with it, and then begin by typing out a stream-of-consciousness style of manuscript. It’s normally about four pages single-spaced.
Then I sit with that for a day or two, make edits to it, and read it through a few times. The day before I’m going to preach, I’ll sit down with the manuscript and make a rough outline based off the manuscript. Then by the time I’m actually preaching, I find that I’m not even really reading the outline, but I have it there as a “safety” in case I get stuck or need to remember the direction I wanted to go. I’m sure this is nothing life-changing for any of you who have been preaching for years (!), but it’s simply what I’ve been doing recently and find that it’s working very well for me.