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preaching article How Leading Worship Shaped My Calling to Preach

How Leading Worship Shaped My Calling to Preach

based on 15 ratings
Apr 15, 2015
Scripture: none
(Suggest Scripture)

I didn’t always want to be a preacher. In fact, public speaking used to scare me to death. I actually got started in ministry as a worship leader.

In middle school and high school I led my youth group in worship twice a week. It wasn’t always very good, but somebody had to do it.

I would stand in front of the group, acoustic guitar in hand, with a music stand directly in front of me, and lead worship while staring at the stand the whole time. I never looked up. I never moved around. The stand had my undivided attention.

It wasn’t until I was in college and volunteered for the band of a large church that the veteran worship pastor told me I had to ditch the music stand. I panicked. What if I forget the chords? What if I mess up the lyrics? I am not good at memorizing music. I’m going to fail! Everyone will laugh at me!

But the worship pastor didn’t give me a choice. And I’m so glad he didn’t!

Ditching the music stand forced me to memorize the songs. It wasn’t as hard as I thought. It caused me to look up and engage with the audience. It helped me to internalize the music so I could actually worship freely on stage without thinking about it. My performance improved, and the audience response was incredible.

The music stand was a crutch that was holding me back from reaching my full potential as a worship leader.

What does this have to do with preaching?

Just as I was tied to my music stand, many preachers are tied to their pulpit and their notes. They are hiding behind what feels like a tool to help them, but in reality is a crutch that keeps them from reaching their full potential.

Cutting notes down dramatically or eliminating them entirely will force you to internalize the message and naturally improve your delivery.

How this benefits you:

  • You will speak more from your heart. Even if you wrote the notes from your heart, you communicate the opposite to your audience when you have to look at notes to find what to say next.
  • You will sound more natural and less rehearsed.
  • You will have more eye contact with your audience. Research shows that good eye contact makes you come across as more confident, honest and likeable.
  • You will be able to walk the stage when you aren’t chained to your notes. Good movement on stage will increase your audience's attention. Our brains naturally tune out stationary objects.
  • Your favorite preachers probably rarely use their notes. The best preachers internalize their message and speak passionately from their heart. This is probably why you like them so much.
  • If you miss a point because you didn’t look at notes, nobody will notice but you. Your audience has no idea what you planned to say.

The point.

Just like throwing out my music stand helped my worship, throwing out notes (or using fewer notes) can dramatically improve your preaching. This doesn’t mean you prepare any less. Memorizing a song takes more time than reading a music sheet. Preaching without notes takes more preparation because you have nothing to fall back on.

If the thought of preaching without notes terrifies you, then you have proven my point. You are too dependent on your notes!

Don’t believe me? I double triple dog dare you to give it a shot.

What do you have to lose? You might preach a bad sermon. Or you may just preach your best sermon yet!

Brandon is the editor of Pro Preacher.com.

Talk about it...

David Buffaloe avatar
David Buffaloe
0 days ago
What of the Spirit?
Brandon H avatar
Brandon H
0 days ago
Good question. Freeing yourself up from notes and internalizing the message you prepared (that is of course bathed in prayer and inspiration from the Spirit) allows more room for the Holy Spirit drop a thought into your head on stage.
Christopher Williams avatar
Christopher Williams
0 days ago
Don't agree with the assessment here. I know of many dynamic and powerful preachers who use a pulpit and either notes, outlines, or a full manuscript and still engage and impact their audience. Everyone is not able to, nor have time to memorize their sermon. A danger not?mentioned with this "without notes" method is that it is far easier to run down rabbit trails and thus get away from the point of the text or sermon.?I preach with a skeleton outline. Whatever method used, we all must depend on the power of the Holy Spirit.
Leslye Haller avatar
Leslye Haller
0 days ago
Great article Brandon, however, I disagree. I am a manuscript preacher. I would give anything to be able to do like some of my friends and preach without notes, being free to roam about the stage. However, the ability to do this is a gift--one God did not bless me with--at least not yet. And this is okay! Even though I have a manuscript, I also have the freedom to leave it if the Holy Spirit is taking me a different direction, which he loves to do from time to time. With my manuscript, I have a place to "re-land". Without my manuscript, I tend to flail around like a lost child. I know--I've tried. I also know my manuscript so well that I have nearly steady eye contact with the congregation--much more than a pastor I know who preaches without any notes at all and looks almost the whole time at some random spot on the wall opposite the stage. Or another friend of mine who preaches without notes and randomly goes from one point to another until the congregation is so lost they've completely lost the message. I keep trying the "no notes" method. I crave your freedom, but I'm not there yet. If God decides to cut the ties between me and my manuscript, I'll celebrate! But if He decides to keep me with a manuscript, I'm okay with that too. We're not all the same, and we're not all able to preach without notes, anymore than some of us can sing on key and some of us cannot. Keep preaching the Word, Brandon, and God bless you, your ministry and the people God has blessed you with to shepherd!
Brandon H avatar
Brandon H
0 days ago
Thanks Leslye. I appreciate your honesty. My intention isn't to put down manuscript preachers. I agree that many pastors preach from manuscripts and do it well. However, my hope was to encourage preachers to take risks and find the freedom of no notes (or less notes) on stage. It's definitely not easy. ?Brandon
Rodney Shanner avatar
Rodney Shanner
0 days ago
I write out a full manuscript, take it to the pulpit, walk all over the stage, walk out into the congregation and go back to the pulpit when necessary. Why make it either, or?
Tim Burns avatar
Tim Burns
0 days ago
I understand completely what Brandon is saying. I am a pastor who leads worship once in a while. I use a stand but know the words and music. I look at the music occasionally. This frees me up to lead the congregation in worship. When I preach I go in with less notes and occasionally refer to them throughout the message. It's difficult to go noteless but I am not bogged down by them as I use to be. Thanks for the thoughts everyone.
Jeff Glenn avatar
Jeff Glenn
0 days ago
I would love to preach without notes, but as I learned early in my ministerial studies, using written notes is similiar to a builder using a blueprint. Besides my wife (who is my biggest fan and my worst critic!) says that when I don't use notes I "ramble" and "chase too many rabbits". I do sometimes when I am using notes! LOL! (Laughing at myself on that one!) I greatly admire preachers who don't use notes and can stay with the topic. Maybe someday I will be able too!
Brandon H avatar
Brandon H
0 days ago
Many of these comments bring up a good question: Is being able to preach without notes a gift that some pastors just have or is it a skill that can be learned? Definitely something for me to chew in. Thanks. -Brandon
Brandon H avatar
Brandon H
0 days ago
Many of these comments bring up a good question: Is being able to preach without notes a gift that some pastors just have or is it a skill that can be learned? Definitely something for me to chew in. Thanks. -Brandon
Darryl Woodson avatar
Darryl Woodson
0 days ago
It's a lot more work to internalize and even memorize the message. But always worth it.
Jason Cardwell avatar
Jason Cardwell
0 days ago
This certainly wouldn't work for everyone, but we use PowerPoint, and essentially, what's on the slides ARE my notes. I control my own slide changes, and as I have prayerfully shaped the message slides, they are my breadcrumbs back through the terrain with the congregation.
Doug Conley avatar
Doug Conley
0 days ago
For a preacher with no elders and no men who are either not willing or able to teach, it's hard to find the time to "internalize" my sermon. I do my best to memorize it, but adding three classes, evangelizing, and having a semblance of a family life takes a lot of my time. I do my personal reading before I go to sleep. I know that I'm not the only one in this circumstance.
Leslye Haller avatar
Leslye Haller
0 days ago
Hi Brandon, I just read your response to my post and I apologize if I came across as being offended by your article. I was not at all! Heavens, no apology is necessary. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I greatly admire pastors like you who are able to successfully preach without notes, and I should have mentioned another friend of mine who does that and is wonderful. I praise God for the gift He has given you and thank you for being a faithful servant. Blessings to you in this Lenten season!
Gene Cobb avatar
Gene Cobb
0 days ago
Love the article and all the comments. My husband and I co Pastor and our preaching methods are totally different. I write just enough notes to keep my points in order. Many times once I am behind the pulpit I won't use any of them. My husband on the other hand used to preach without any notes but about 10 years ago began to write his sermons down word for word. When the Ipad came on the scene, he now has his vehicle for his sermons. He puts them on his Ipad and can even have a computer voice read them back to him. He can then change his manuscript or not. My point, God can speak through notes, no notes, and we would all be very wise to remember, He doesn't need any of us either! We need Him! We are just thankful to be called to this life of ministry. Is the Word of God reaching people? Is Jesus Christ being preached? Then I say God bless us All! And now I need to finish my message for Sunday! Pastor LaFern
Mh Constantine avatar
Mh Constantine
0 days ago
I believe that my reliance on the Spirit must infuse all my preparation as well as provide momentary inspiration. The preparation of a message does not chain me down or bind the Spirit, but it does mean that I have done what G. Campbell Morgan calls "original work." Preparation of the message includes preparation of the messenger, or at least should.
Michael Garner avatar
Michael Garner
0 days ago
I learned long ago as a singer in large choirs that memorization is not as difficult as it sounds and not as scary as you might think. However, when preaching, I use bullet point notes for a couple of reasons. First, I am 68 years old and memory is becoming a minor issue. I do a lot of preparation and really hate it when I forget to include something that I feel is really important. I have certainly experienced the Spirit's lead in the middle of a message and have tried to follow Him faithfully when that happens. But, in the normal course of preaching, sometimes I get a random thought that I feel will amplify my notes, but end up "chasing rabbits". Notes are absolutely essential for me.
Stephen Belokur avatar
Stephen Belokur
0 days ago
Interesting but certainly not a universal concept. Alistair Begg rarely moves from behind the pulpit and my friend Dennis King is a word-smith who carefully and passionately proclaims the Word of God from a manuscript and I am always challenged by one of his sermons. The "one size fits all" makes for nice articles but we should feel free to preach as our Instructor calls us to preach. That's why God doesn't use a cookie cutter to form his pastors. Just sayin' ... and ... God bless you, Brandon Hilgemann!
Lawrence Webb avatar
Lawrence Webb
0 days ago
Somebody earlier in this thread said, in effect, the Lord doesn't use a cookie cutter when He makes us. I agree. Perhaps I have nothing new to add. So maybe I shouldn't clutter the website with no new contribution. But it's important to vote, just like in a public election. So I vote for each man or woman to use the talent that works best. I work from a full manuscript. And, because I speak each week on the radio, I can't stray far from the pulpit.

So, what did you think?

Thank you.