Notes on notes

When Bruce Feirstein wrote his satirical look at masculinity, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche in 1982, it stayed at the top of the New York Times best-seller list for 53 weeks. In my recollection it then spawned a flurry of responses along the lines of ‘real men do eat quiche because they’re not bothered what people think’ .

Over the years that  I have been involved with preaching I have observed a similar swing to and fro of the pendulum as regards whether or not ‘real preachers do use notes‘.  Some see them as an unwelcome barrier between people and preacher, others as a substitute for reliance upon the Holy Spirit’s ‘live’ guidance, and still others as evidence of careful and prayerful preparation. This debate was brought back to mind as people tweeted live from a session at Spring Harvest last night.

Like every other preacher, I have personal preferences on this. I have been blessed by the experience of learning to preach first in a foreign language, and scarred by those occasions when a speaker has said they ‘don’t need their notes’ and spent the next thirty minutes proving that they did!  What follows are merely some observations which may help to fuel a discussion.

  • In recent decades we have hailed the arrival of various note-less politicians on the stage as evidence of a new and more passionate politics. The long game has revealed that substance may have been more important than presentation – even if it meant working from a ‘script’.
  • We affirm the presence of God in both study and pulpit, and believe He is as capable of inspiring the notes in advance as he is the delivery in the pulpit.
  • Notes whose style, font-size, or complexity breaks the magic of a bond between speaker and listener need to be revised!
  • A speaker who is as wedded to their notes as they are to the order of their power-point slides is too inflexible.

What do you think? Would you support the idea, raised at Spring Harvest, that you should compromise by having notes for the first half of your sermon, and go without for the second?

Let’s talk…