Each of the three methods of sermon delivery has had effective users; yet one is the most desirable …
To be good, a sermon must not only have fine content but also be delivered effectively. It isn’t enough for the preacher to have something important to say: he must be able to say it in a way that compels attention. In other words, he must be able to communicate his message. The late Charles R. Brown, at one time dean of the Yale University Divinity School and one of the greatest American preachers of his day, put the matter aptly:
Here in the delivery of your sermon the nourishment which you have brought for a hungry congregation is either eaten with satisfaction, relish, and resultant strength, or it is left on the plate as a bit of cold victuals, useless and repellent. Take heed, therefore, how you deliver! [The Art of Preaching, p. 155].
Books on preaching usually list three chief methods of delivering a sermon—reading from a full manuscript, using only an outline or notes, and dispensing with manuscript altogether. There can be no doubt that each of these methods has had its effective users. Any list of the great preachers of the Christian Church would have to include Jonathan Edwards of eighteenth-century America, Phillips Brooks of nineteenth-century America, Thomas Chalmers of nineteenth-century Scotland, and Herbert H. Farmer of twentieth-century England: and all these read their manuscripts closely. So a read sermon is not necessarily a dead sermon. The fact remains, however, that the most desirable—because the most effective—way to preach is to dispense with manuscript entirely and speak freely with no notes.
The reason for this is quite clear. Any manuscript, even a partial one, is a non-conducting medium for communicating ...1
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