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How to Preach Without Notes

By Robert W. Rae
When I became an ordained minister, I preached from a full manuscript. I wanted to deliver each sentence exactly as I typed it in my study. This method of sermon delivery forced me to read my sermons to my congregation.

One summer, I attended a pastor's conference where I observed the guest preacher delivering marvelous sermons without resorting to any written source. I admired his ability to maintain eye-to-eye contact with his listeners, holding their attention throughout his sermon. Before the conference concluded, I was able to ask him to explain his mthod of note-less delivery.

"It's a matter of memorized acrostics," he said. Then he outlined the steps which made him a skilled pulpiteer. I would like to share these steps with all who aspire to note-free sermon delivery.

(1) From an outline, write your sermon in full manuscript form. Read and revise it until you are satisfied with the sermon.

(2) Select a key word which suggests the content of each major point.

(3) Compose a vertical acrostic of the first letter of each key word. If possible, cause your acrostic to form a word.

(4) Memorize the vertical acrostic, making sure you can deliver the content symbolized by each letter.

(5) Compose a similar acrostic for minor points subordinate to your major points. Familiarity with these minor acrostics should eliminate their final necessity.

(6) Familiarize yourself with the contents of your acrostics until you can deliver this material without notes.

(7) Deliver your sermon from your memorized acrostics rather than from your notes.

(8) To prevent a mental blackout during your first few "note-less Sundays," have your sermon outline available but not used.

Now let me illustrate these steps, using excerpts from one of my own sermons.

God's Light for Man's Blackout

(An Advent Sermon)

Do you recall reading of the Great Blackout of 1965? Joel Nederhood described it as "an electrical failure which drenched 80,000 square miles of northeast American and Canadian cities in total darkness for twelve hours."

.... twelve frantic hours for thousands of commuters trapped in New York's dark subways.

.... twelve frightening hours for thousands confined within elevators suspended between floors.

.... twelve frustrating hours for surgeons performing operations in hospitals.

.... twelve embarrassing hours for the power company, which could neither locate nor remedy the malfunction.

Such a catastrophe teaches us how brittle is our technology. Leslie Weatherhead is right when he asserts that a power failure reduces much of man's modern gadgetry to sophisticated junk.

Ancient Israel walked in a spiritual blackout until God turned on the Light of the World. Through the centuries before Christ's advent, God gradually turned Israel's spiritual darkness into revelation-light.

One Light Bringer was the prophet Isaiah. Approximately seven centuries before God entered human history in Jesus, Isaiah brought hope to his exiled countrymen by proclaiming a vision:

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