Whether it is best to manuscript or to outline your sermon is an ongoing conversation. Everyone is different. Driscoll goes up with post-it notes, Piper takes a manuscript. Figuring out which is right for you takes time and experimentation.
I just preached back-to-back Sunday mornings while our lead pastor was out of town – the first with an outline, and the second with a manuscript.
For me, it’s case closed: I’m a manuscript guy. Not a hide-half-my-face-while-I-read-word-for-word manuscript guy. I actually read very little of it. But the process of writing a manuscript is massively beneficial to me. Perhaps it would be for you, too. Here are five reasons why.
1. Clarity When you write it out, you realize that concepts you thought you had clear in your head were not so clear after all. Writing your thoughts word-for-word forces you into a logical, coherent discourse.
2. Confidence Being clear about what you are going to say, and how you are going to say breeds confidence. A confidant preacher is a more persuasive preacher.
3. Conciseness If you don’t know exactly how you want to say something, you will spend a lot of words getting it across. That means it takes longer for you to get to your point, and it takes longer for you to finish your sermon. These are two things your congregation wishes you would fix.
4. Creativity Unlike listing out bullet points, as you write your brain recruits more creative faculties, which results in better sermon illustrations and applications.
5. Momentum in sermon preparation No ‘c’ word for this one. I don’t get less bogged down in unnecessary interpretative minutia when I manuscript my sermon. The most important interpretative issues tend to rise to the surface, and I deal with them from a preaching perspective rather than a mere interpretive perspective. This leads me to think about how this stuff applies to my congregation more often.
I’m not saying that from now on I’ll only use a manuscript when I teach or preach. I picture myself still using an outline in more casual environments: Sunday school, retreats, Bible studies, etc. But for Sunday mornings, for the foreseeable future, I’ll be a manuscript guy. What about you?