Church Growth Spurgeon
Style: Preaching Without Notes
"My good ministering brother, have you got an empty church? Do you want to fill it? I will give you a good recipe, and if you will follow it, you will in all probability have your chapel full to the doors.
Burn all your manuscripts. That is number one. Give up your notes. That is number two. Read your Bible and preach it as you find it in the simplicity of its language. Begin to tell the people what you have felt in your own heart, and beg the Holy Spirit to make your heart as hot as a furnace for zeal. Then go out and talk to the people. Speak to them like their brother. Be a man among men. Tell them what you have felt and what you know, and tell it heartily with a good, bold face. And, my dear friend, I do not care who you are, you will get a congregation." (from the New Park Street Pulpit, 1857)
The “Burning” Question!
It is hard to argue with Spurgeon! Though he be dead, yet he speaketh! He is certainly correct about many things, including the “empty church” problem! But it is not that people aren't sitting in the pews, it is that many churches are empty of the power of God!
“Burn all your manuscripts,” and “give up your notes” (but don't forget to back them up on floppies first!), seems like radical advice to me. I don't know many “manuscript ministers,” though I know many “noteworthy preachers.” Personally, I am a great believer in notes in the pulpit (and I don't mean just for the announcements either!).
I believe that notes are especially necessary to navigate the narrow pathway of Christ-centered preaching. Notes are necessary to relate the exact words and phrases given by the Holy Spirit during those long hours of preparation. Notes are necessary to make correct and in depth exegesis and application of the text to the hearers. Notes are necessary to keep the hound dog from chasing the rabbit. Notes are necessary to begin well and end strong. Notes are necessary to cover all the material that the Holy Spirit has given in the time that the listeners have “allotted.” And notes are necessary to plow a straight furrow in a crooked world..
Though Spurgeon might say, “Just Say No To Notes,” most of us do not have the ability to consistently preach Christ expositionally without the aid of notes. We just don't have the ability to consistently plum the depths of God's Word from memory. And besides, why should we give up our notes just because the greatest Baptist preacher of the nineteenth century said so? Why, Spurgeon didn't even own a computer!!
I can appreciate a man who doesn't use notes, if the same man has spent the necessary time in preparation, and then tells his listeners what God says instead of what the preacher thinks. Even the pigs know when the pickin's are slim!
Granted the Holy Spirit might have more freedom in the pulpit if we did not use notes, but, likely as not, the note-free preacher usually fills the Holy Spirit's time with stories and illustrations. On the other side of the coin, I believe the Holy Spirit has more free time with me in my study than He does with me in the pulpit. Therefore, I do not want to chance anything to memory that He reveals to me during prayer, preparation, and meditation.
“Burn your manuscripts?”
“Give up your notes?”
Instead of throwing the baby out with the bath water, how about making sure that:
¨ the notes speak of Christ
¨ the notes are overshadowed with prayer
¨ the notes are stained with tears
¨ the notes are recorded after much meditation
¨ the notes are tightly woven with the blood red thread of salvation
¨ the notes have already moved your heart for God
¨ the notes give the babes some milk, and the mature much meat
¨ And finally, that the notes make others take note that you have been with God!
“Give up your notes?” Only if you give them up to God before you give them out to the people.
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