Summary: How to preach extemporaneously, without notes or a manuscript.
In this lesson I hope to teach you how to preach extemporaneously, without notes.
Reading through Acts 2 we get the idea that Peter preached off the cuff. Okay, it's time to crank the ratchet up yet another notch. You have seen me allude to this before, but now it's time for you to actually do it, if you haven't already, preach without notes. And if you have preached contemporaneously, I hope that some of these comments will help you improve.
This chapter proposes to teach you how to preach extemporaneously, without notes. It goes beyond using the text for your notes, explaining that we must be filled with our material, prepare thoroughly, but leave our notes at home, how to avoid certain pitfalls of extemporaneous preaching, the use of eye contact and ends with an example of extemporaneous preaching that we will all want to copy.
1. Extemporaneous or Impromptu?
I will define extemporaneous preaching as preaching without notes, but not without preparation. This is generally different to impromptu preaching, which is preaching without either notes or preparation. Naturally, there are limits to these definitions as no impromptu is ever totally without preparation. Life's experiences are also preparation. There is also some crossover between the two, as short preparation could be both extemporaneous and impromptu. We will discuss impromptu more thoroughly in an advanced lesson.
2. Let the Text be Your Notes
This is not really a new point. It was mentioned in earlier lessons. It works well for a straight exegetical sermon. However, now we want to move this idea up a notch. There are sermons where you are using more than an exegesis of a particular verse, where your points are right there in front of you, in the text. Now you want to add other details. You have historical data, facts and figures, biographical information or other material that is outside the scope of scripture alone. How in the world can you remember all that stuff without notes? You can.
3. Be Filled with the Material
Preaching extemporaneously is not a short-cut Saturday night special sermon. Preaching without notes actually requires additional effort. It is also not for the bombastic novice who may end up making a big scene and embarrass both himself and his audience with offensive comments or other awkward moments.
Let's be filled with the Holy Spirit, making the things of the Spirit a priority in our lives, but let's also allow the Holy Spirit to fill us during our preparation time as much as during our delivery time. That means that we will be immersed in regular prayer and thoroughly researching the material for our sermon. Granted, we may end up changing the sermon completely on the day, as sometimes happens, but the spiritual preparation will not be wasted. There is nothing as wonderful as listening to someone who is so filled with his subject that he is pumped, excited, and eager to share it.
An old maxim goes that you study about ten times more material than you can possibly deliver. If your research is thorough and the topic is interesting enough, you will remember enough material to easily fill a sermon, maybe more. It's not like learning a script for a play. It's more like carrying on a conversation after you have just read a very interesting book or seen a memorable movie.
4. Write the Sermon Out
The purpose of writing the sermon out is not to memorize it as if it was a script for a soap opera. Writing the sermon out, even though you are going to leave your notes at home, helps organize your mind logically. It helps you see where there are weaknesses that need improvement. Don't make the mistake of doing a totally impromptu sermon at this point. There are rules that impromptu sermons follow, even without preparation and if you don't have at least some of them memorized, you will blow it. We'll discuss impromptus later, but for now, don't do it. Don't be the yelling, screaming, pacing preacher constantly requesting an Amen, desperately trying to cover up his total lack of content. Oh sure, the usual schmoozers will come up to you afterwards and pat you on the back saying what a wonderful job you did, but the hungry will go away complaining that they weren't fed again. You won't hear them. They most likely won't even talk to you about it. Ignore the toady flatterers. Listen to Jesus. He said, feed my sheep!
5. Leave Your Notes at Home
This is the most frustrating thing, especially when you so dearly wanted to mention a certain point, or get an illustration out in a certain way. Because you left your notes at home, you totally forgot to even mention certain ideas in your sermon. However, remember a couple of things. 1) Maybe God wanted you to forget those points for now, and/or 2) if they really were such good points, there will be other opportunities.