Preachers who preach from a full manuscript have no choice but to answer yes to the question. However what about those of us who preach from an outline or from even fewer notes? Must we prepare a full manuscript? This is a good question. I think that the benefits of preparing a full manuscript whether you use it or not far outweigh the liabilities. I want to describe a few of the benefits.
You Spend More Time on Rhetoric
When you prepare a manuscript, you have a tendency to spend more time thinking about the “words” that will be used in the sermon. When I preach from a sparse outline, I often spend less time thinking about the words I will use. I think about the concepts that I will attempt to convey. Now some would argue that this is the point. When we spend less time brooding on the words that will be used, we have a tendency to exhibit more passion in the sermon. However, rhetoric is important and I think that the preacher should spend some time thinking about what words are best to convey the concepts of the sermon.
You Spend More Time on the Theology
Theoretically, if you are not preparing the manuscript, you can spend more time thinking about your theology and perhaps the theology in the sermon. However, what often happens is that certain areas of “conventional wisdom” can more easily seep into our sermon when we don’t truly think through the implications of our theology for our sermon. When you prepare a manuscript you are sitting there looking at your theology in the sermon and thus it requires you to more fully engage it. This is important for we don’t want to say anything about God or truth that is not true.
You Have some Exposure to the Whole Sermon
Instead of only focusing on certain aspects of the sermon, you must be exposed to the whole thing when you prepare a full manuscript. There are times I will simply write down something like “Going to Sunnydale Story” in my notes for preaching. Because I know the story so well, I can simply write that down and save time. However, when you do that, you spend less time thinking about how the story fits into your sermon. You spend less time thinking about what aspects of the story to emphasize and what parts to leave out. Solid preaching requires adequate thought about every portion of the sermon.
Provides Something Substantial for Your Archives
This is a biggie. When you want to know what you preached last year, do you go to a piece of paper with three lines scribbled on it, or a full manuscript? A full manuscript allows you to really look at your text choices. You can look at what stories are commonly used in your sermons. You can analyze your sermons in a much deeper way. Finally, one can easily take each sermon and turn them into a chapter for a future book.
It Tends to Lengthen Preparation Time
Yes this is one of its liabilities, but it is really a great benefit. I have gone back and forth on this, but let us assume that you are preaching to 100 people for 30 minutes. That is 50 hours of all of your congregante’s time. Are you spending enough time on your preparation? Are those 50 hours being wasted in your church? Preparing a manuscript will help to push you towards answering this question in the negative. Preparing a manuscript takes time, but the benefits are too great to ignore.