Manuscript Beating

This Sunday, I'm preaching on Acts 20:13-38, which means that yesterday and today are devoted mostly to preparing a manuscript for my sermon. For some people like my friend Drew, this is their favorite part of sermon preparation. They love working out the transitions, figuring out the best way to communicate a point, and working out their sermon from concept to manuscript. That's not me; manuscripting wears me slick.

I love studying for sermons, and I love delivering sermons, but the manuscript part is pretty tedious for me. I think it's because I'm not a detail-oriented guy at heart. I get excited about the big picture, and love to communicate the details/pieces of the big picture, but get whipped to death with the minutia of trying to figure out exactly which word to use where and when.

However, I manuscript every sermon because I think it's important. I'm enough of a wordsmith that I need the manuscript to ensure I've thought through the exact language and images I'm going to use. It also makes sure I'm not going to say something stupid about "puffed up crackers." Finally, it serves as a source of accountability for me to make sure I've thought through every piece of the sermon, rather than just throwing together a quick outline and winging it. I'm a good enough communicator that I could do that, but the risk isn't worth it.

Although I always manuscript my sermons word-for-word, I never take a manuscript with me to the stage. I carry up an outline with a couple of key points and transitions color-coded for easy reference. Just as I feel like God (and the congregation) deserves a sermon that is well thought through, I feel like it's cheating to stand up and read a sermon to them. If it's important enough for people to listen to for 35 minutes, it's important enough for me to internalize.

Notice, I didn't say "memorize." If I simply memorize my sermon, it comes across as a wooden, cold, unemotional speech. I don't want that. I want to be familiar enough with my sermon that I know exactly where I'm going and exactly how I want to get there, but only to the point that I'm free to communicate those things normally.

Nobody is ever going to accuse me of being the world's best preacher, and that's okay. But I see it as my responsibility to try to be the world's most prepared preacher, and to be the most diligent steward of my gifts and the congregation's time that I can be.