Posted by: Tim | September 2, 2008

Sermon Notes

Today I came across an interesting blog series by Joshua Harris sharing five well-known preachers’ personal sermon notes (h/t Tullian Tchividjian). What I found interesting is that all of them manuscript their sermons – Tim Keller, Mark Dever, C.J. Mahaney etc… One preacher even handwrites his manuscripts (Recently I did a bit of handwriting for the first time in a long time – It was awkward and I was amazed I still remembered how to do it!).

There are different ways to preach a sermon ranging from totally extemporaneous (led by the Spirit, dude!) to totally manuscripted (stick to the notes, man!) I fall somewhere in between. Each week I prepare sermon notes for the congregation (you can click here for a sampling of them) and I also use them as my personal preaching notes, but with my own little notes added in pen the night before as I go over it before preaching on Sunday morning. I type out quotes for my own notes if I have time, or sometimes I just bring the source book into the pulpit.

It generally works out well as I know what I want to say around a certain point or subpoint so I don’t need it manuscripted, though I often end up saying things I didn’t plan for. Occasionally I regret something but most of the time I am happy with the unplanned things I say, and often those things have an impact in the life of someone in the congregation. When that happens I see it as the Lord giving me words that someone needs. In fact I am humbled and greatly encouraged that I often really sense the Lord working when I am preaching and making a sermon that I didn’t think would turn out too well, into a far better message than I could have preached or imagined.

Peter Rashleigh, our Pastor of Student & Family Ministries, writes out his sermons, and I see the benefit in that if ever he needs to preach it again, he can pull it out and use it without having to remember every detail around a certain point. When I have preached a sermon a second or third time, I have to spend quite a bit of time refreshing myself and updating the notes, and the sermon evolves quite a bit. I have thought about manuscripting after the sermon is preached, based on the audio recording, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Anyway, maybe you have some thoughts about sermon notes, manuscripting / notes / extemporaneous,  or about some other related topic. I would appreciate hearing from you in the comments!


  1. Though I do not preach nearly as regularly as Tim, I tend to manuscript my sermons also. When I asked to do pulpit supply it does help to have a manuscript so you preach the sermon again to a different audience… though hopefully still fresh. As one who attends Prairie Tab I can tell you that Tim’s notes are very full/detailed and attest that the preparation styles he follows works well for him and regularly challenges our hearts from the Word.

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