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Should Preachers Prepare a Written Manuscript?

Charlie Wingard

Charlie Wingard

Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary Jackson and Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Yazoo City, Mississippi

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Each preacher has to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of preaching without notes, with notes, or with a manuscript.

In a letter to a young minister, Thomas Charles of Wales counsels:

“You must be the best judge whether you had better preach extempore or not, as you find liberty and ease in the work. If you cannot deliver your thoughts distinctly, clearly,  accurately and fluently, I think you had better read, or at least use notes.”

Nevertheless, about the value of writing the sermon Charles is dogmatic:

“As to writing your sermons, however you may deliver them, I think there can be no demur about that: and always write every sermon, or whatever else you may write, with all the care and attention you can possibly command. A habit of writing slovenly and carelessly is a very lazy and a very bad one. It would be in every way useful to you to use yourself to accurate composition. It will increase your stock of ideas, and beget a habit of close and accurate mode of thinking and of arranging your ideas.”

Edmund Morgan, ed. Thomas Charles’ Spiritual Counsels. 1836 (Carlisle, PA, 1993), 384-385.


1 Comment

  1. Perry McCall says:

    Such an illusive topic. I have found that nothing is more detrimental to my preaching than writing out the sermon before hand and then trying to preach it as prepared. However, it is also the case that nothing has proved to be more beneficial than writing out a detailed outline or Sermon Brief before producing my preaching event outline (which is always simple and barebones)

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