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Jesus Creed

Ask Andy 4 (and another free book offer)

AndyNthPt.jpgI’ve got a deal for you day: free book. Read on.

In this series I’m asking Andy Stanley some questions about preaching but I’m cheating when I say that: I’m reading his book (Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication
) and generating my questions that he answers in his book.
One of the most significant things about preaching is what happens when the sermon becomes not just something we’ve got memorized but something that we’ve internalized. Andy Stanley says we’ve got to “own it.” It’s got to become ours; it’s got to become so natural we can converse about it to two or three people. Great point made: he says it’s non-genuine when someone says, “I’ve got something really important to say” and then looks at his notes to see what is important. So true. 
How do you internalize your message? How do you own it? What’s your secret? (Again, we’ll give away five copies today for those who have the best answers.)
Internalizing, or owning the message, comes by way of almost memorizing the sermon until it becomes natural. He also says to organize the sermon into chunks and remember your chunks. He practices introduction and stories and challenges, but not all of it.
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posted April 16, 2010 at 2:29 am

Scot, I wanted to share your free book offer with my readers, but found later that it is a giveaway. I think title of this post could be different, just confusing a bit. Thanks for the offer.

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Mick Porter

posted April 16, 2010 at 6:06 am

“…it’s non-genuine when someone says, “I’ve got something really important to say” and then looks at his notes to see what is important” – yes, so true. Also the “chunk” concept resonates with me.
The single best way I’ve found to be able to preach without notes is to be able to clearly outline the sermon to someone in a few sentences. If it’s going to be coherent and useful in its complete form, you need to be able to summarize it coherently too. Trying that a few times with a few people also involves the community in the preparation process.
Practically, few people can do the whole thing without any notes. Powerpoint slides with points and sub-points are to be avoided, but Powerpoint slides with some interesting pictures can be really illustrative and also be enough to keep the preacher on track with the “chunks” without any notes.
The biggest pitfall of moving to preaching without notes is keeping to a reasonable time – I found that my sermons become stupidly long when I first tried it.

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Scot McKnight

posted April 16, 2010 at 7:43 am

Vlad, huh?

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Andrew Vogel

posted April 16, 2010 at 7:58 am

Study it until I can (as Mick said) break it down into a few coherent and easy to understand sentences. In reality I’m not sure how someone could even prepare a sermon that has not become ‘ours’. Perhaps that points to too much repetition and need for a break, or perhaps a diminished priority of the primacy of Scripture in our world.

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John W Frye

posted April 16, 2010 at 8:10 am

To “own” the message:
1. Study hard and get into the text
2. Pray it back to God
3. Imagine it working
4. Have fun with it.

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posted April 16, 2010 at 8:20 am

I have learned what works for me over the years, and that may be the most important thing. Tricks of the trade are only good of they work for you.
Here’s how it works for me…
We plan our series well in advance so I know what I’m preaching on a couple of months out. We are currently in a series on the Resurrection so for about six months anything I saw/heard/read/reminded me of the resurrection drew me in and I would learn as much as I could (like your Petterson posts here).
When I sit to write out my sermon I make sure that the outline flows and my words sound like me. If it sounds like anything/anyone else then it’s probably not flowing out of what’s going on inside me.
After finishing it I let it sit for a day or so and come back and just read it out loud two or thee times making tweeks to make it work for me.
Finally… I take my final draft and practice it at lest three time so that when I go to deliver it I’ve delivered it multiple times and I can just own it.

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Christoph Fischer

posted April 16, 2010 at 8:21 am

How do I internalize my sermons.
1. I plan my sermons up to one year ahead, which gives me a lot of time to develop the theme.
2. I usually preach about topics that touch my own life just as much as the lives of my listeners, so I have to spend quite some time reflecting what this means to me — completely independent of the sermon delivery.
3. I mostly preach in series, which have an internal logical flow from the beginning to the end.
4. I spend a lot of time discussing my themes with friends, colleagues, etc. already long before I actually preach the sermon.
5. I study the text intensively. Then I prepare my sermon. Then I do my powerpoint. Then I go over the sermon again. Then I do handouts. Then I go over my sermon again. Then I prepare question for our study/cell groups. Then I go over my sermon again …
By the time I get to actually preach the sermon, I have worked through it so often, that I know, understand and [try to] live its basic structure (not a full text, I don’t work with full sermon texts) so well, that I don’t need notes anyway. So I usually end up on stage with just a powerpoint presenter and nothing more.
God bless you,

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Jay W

posted April 16, 2010 at 9:13 am

After I have studied and stewed on it for a while, I often bring it up in conversation over coffee or lunch or just at the dinner table with friends or my wife, and I let it pour out of my heart. The act of sharing the story multiple times has the real effect of giving it ownership and helps to “internalize it.” Now I don’t normally couch it in terms of “this is what I am going to preach on,” I just try to make it part of the conversation. If the message doesn’t resonate in that way, it probably isn’t going to work in the pulpit.

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posted April 16, 2010 at 9:34 am

I really benefitted from Andy’s book when I read it last year. I sometimes follow his approach…sometimes Dave Ferguson’s “Big Idea”, which I know is about more than just the sermon.
I also created a little way of outlining that I borrowed from screen writing.
Setting: A vision of ‘the good’, the ideal
Counter-setting: The ‘reality’ in which we live vis a vis the vision of the good.
Tension: The tension that arises from a vision of the good and the lived reality.
Resolution: 2 to 4 steps to lessen or do away with the tension
Climax: Summary; review and next steps.
(Anti-climax: sometimes: resolution of tension yet new tensions arise (w/ a series)
Setting: God intends for us to be a people whose lives are marked by forgiveness
Counter-Setting: We often find ourselves bearing grudges; caught up in unforgiveness
Tension: We live between God’s vision for us and our grudge-bearing and resentments
Resolution: We can learn forgiveness by X, Y, Z
Climax: We have all felt that tension between God’s vision and our ways of life. However, by X, Y, Z we can live more fully into the vision of God.
(Anti-Climax: We may find our way to forgive the grace of God but what do we do when those around us, those closest to us, persist in insisting that our resentments are justified? etc etc)
I remember it by recalling the plot of the “story” I’m telling from “Setting” to “Climax/Anti-Climax”
I came up with the idea because I was studying narrative and the nature of story and thought that our culture’s story tellers (film makers/ screen writers) might offer some insight.
I was greatly helped by Robert McKee’s book “Story: Substance, Structure, Style and Principles of Screenwriting”. (Reading that book has also helped me become a better ‘film viewer’. ) Cliff Atkinson’s book “Beyond Bullet Points” capitalizes on McKee’s book. It’s a book on using Powerpoint in presentation (which I rarely do in preaching). His book offers a good summary of McKee’s.

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posted April 16, 2010 at 9:36 am

correction to my comment: “Anti-Climax: We may find our way to forgive by and through the grace of God…”

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David B. Johnson

posted April 16, 2010 at 9:37 am

First I work to structure the sermon in a manageable and memorable way. From my days at DTS, Problem-Solution-Application or Then (Exegetical)-Always (Canonical)-Now (Application) are helpful, but I have tried to move away from the predictable three point format to more of a narrative arc. At this point the sermon is basically written. I then take the sermon to a white board, retelling the story 3-4 times, writing key words/movements (e.g. “Bobby Knight – Hannah Storm interview,” Transition, Preview) of the narrative on the white board to help me see the story that is being told. I then write those key words in my Moleskin journal from which I practice a few more times. In a normal week I am able to leave the journal in the pew and take nothing but my Bible to the platform. After a busy week and not as much preparation, I can lean on the journal, just in case.

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posted April 16, 2010 at 9:45 am

I don’t think memorization is the path to internalizing a message…sorry. I think we internalize a sermon/message by living with it, but chewing on the text, by reading varied commentaries, books, resources and then by spending a few days living in the moment of the text.
The prep work allows us to learn about the problem in the text and God’s grace in Scripture. The time mulling or living with the text allows us to reflect on similar problems with and in our world today and how God’s grace speaks to these problems today.
This then allows us to internalize the message and to share the Good News with God’s people who are gathered for worship…atleast thats how my creative process works.
I do prepare a manuscript, but after internalizing the text for days I am free to use it – or not…

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Marv Nelson

posted April 16, 2010 at 10:40 am

How I own a message:
I study the text by 1. reading it on its own; 2. writing down my initial thoughts; 3. re-reading it with my notes; 4. re-reding it with commentaries and my notes.
I then begin to fill out my sermon outline. I am generally the typical exegesis type guy, so I ask the Haddon Robinson questions: What’s the Big Idea? What’s the Fallen Condition Focus? What are the main points this text is trying to convey? and What illustrations can I place in there that draw people from the natural into the spiritual.
Once the manuscript is filled out, I let it sit. After 1 or 2 days (if I have that much time)I review it, type out a short hand outline and preach it out.
After I’ve preached it to myself once with just the shorthand outline it is memorized and ready to be preached with no notes.

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Fred Harrell

posted April 16, 2010 at 10:41 am

I’ve been preaching without a manuscript now for 13 years. I use the Decker Grid which enables me to preach from trigger words rather than written paragraphs. Maybe this is what Stanley means by “chunks”. If you are interested in a system of creating your sermon that will cut down on your prep time, yet allow you to preach passionately without notes that doesn’t sacrifice depth, I recommend it.
Bert wrote a book with the Southern Baptist Convention called Preaching with Bold Assurance.
Also, Bert has a blog that I check up on periodically.
Don’t expect to agree with everything…and you may have to modify it, but it changed my “preaching” life.

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posted April 16, 2010 at 11:03 am

Internalizing for delivery and internalizing for application and authenticity are related but separate tasks. For application I interpret the text and before writing out my sermon I meditate on it. I ask myself how I would live and think differently if the truth of the text was vibrantly alive in my life. I discuss it with my wife, senior pastor, friends, secretary, on Facebook etc to determine what parts of my understanding cause objections and questions.
Internalizing for delivery comes next. I write out a combination of notes and transcript. I use notes for the easy portions of the message but transcript for the more complicated bits. This forces me to clarify and articulate well. Then I record myself giving the message exactly how I hope to on Sunday and then listen to the recording while I jog, drive, do dishes etc. Then usually early Sunday morning I write notes for the sermon while listening to the recording. Usually about 2 pages. By the time I get up to preach I barely need the notes and I’ve got the central ideas virtually memorized.
Here’s the progression: Text to mind to community to page to recording to mind to page to congregation.
It takes less time because internalizing it for delivery only takes the time it takes to record the message.

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posted April 16, 2010 at 11:48 am

I look for the intersection of God’s story(-ies) and those of myself and my congregation. Then comes the study, prayer, rough outline (Stanley’s “chunks”), and then copious notes in that outline. I’ll go over it several times in my mind and in my life — I think part of internalizing the message is externalizing it.
And then I throw away my notes. I don’t have a copy of a single sermon I’ve preached. If I’m going to internalize my message, I don’t want to have to keep going back to my notes.

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posted April 16, 2010 at 12:46 pm

A number of famous preachers and teachers of preachers have talked about preaching from the overflow. That includes study and life change. I’ve preached many types of sermons, many styles, and from many forms (read manuscript to memorized to off the cuff) and by far, the best way I internalize messages is by praying. I pray that the text transforms me, that I understand it, that I live it, that I communicate it well, and more. Additionally, I keep the text on my mind in the preceding days/weeks/months (depending on the sermon) as I go about my life.

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tim e

posted April 16, 2010 at 3:35 pm

i like a quote i once read…”i do not study to preach, but because i do study, i must preach.” with that in mind, the topics that do become sermons for myself are those things that are ruminating in my heart and mind. i think and pray long and hard around these topics of interest that eventually weave into a story of a text and my life. i preach with power points images which i use as a trigger and reminder that provide flow for my message. i was taught to make eye contact with a small number of the folk listening and imagine my message as a conversation with them. i am amazed how many preachers make no eye contact at all with the audience but seem to look just above their heads.

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posted April 16, 2010 at 4:24 pm

“Great point made: he says it’s non-genuine when someone says, “I’ve got something really important to say” and then looks at his notes to see what is important. So true.”
I haven’t read the book, but I’m not sure it is a great point or so true. Maybe I am missing something here. However, reliance on notes may be a time issue for bi-vocational preachers, who have worked and studied hard and have something important to say but not enough prep time to internalize their message as suggested. It may be that some preachers’ memories don’t work as well or in the same way as others’. It may be that what they say is so important that they want to say it precisely to avoid confusion or misunderstanding as best as possible.
What am I missing on the original post?

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phil dolci

posted April 16, 2010 at 5:59 pm

I dont have any tips to add.
I just want what you guys are talking about. I feel like I am too dependent on my notes and afraid to not be. I feel this sense to not be so dependent on them, but i havent been able to take that leap of faith and just trust God will provide me with the words.
thanks for the discussion Scot

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posted April 17, 2010 at 2:39 am

For me, it is a matter of “living the message” rather than memorisation.
In my preparation I “journey in” to discover the text and what I feel God wants to communicate through the message. This is the heart of what I would be saying.
While I do write notes, and they do help me in forming the message, I feel completely free to move away from them in order to engage with those who are listening.
While I have sometimes memorised a message, I find that this binds me even closer to my script – since this is what I have memorised.

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Jim Martin

posted April 17, 2010 at 6:30 am

There are a few things I do which helps me internalize a message.
1. I plan a series in advance (often a year in advance). This helps greatly.
2. I study the text. If I am preaching a message or series that I have planned for in advance, this means that I have often done a great deal of study in advance. (Contrasted to the way I used to preach which was to go from week to week never knowing what I would be preaching the following Sunday. I found it incredibly difficult to internalize messages doing this.)
3. I pray about this message. (With special focus on its application to my life and the life of the congregation.)
4. I often speak aloud (in the privacy of my office or home) either a part or the whole message. I have found that what often looks clear on paper is not that clear when I begin to speak it aloud. There are often times when I will realize that I really haven’t internalized a certain part of the message. Yet, that did not become clear to me until I tried to express it audibly.

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John Scheepers

posted April 17, 2010 at 7:04 am

The best way to internalize it for me is to teach it in a smaller group with just a few questions to guide them and all the thinking, reading you have already done to guide you. I find that that is most often when the text sinks in to me and get me excited, challenged etc about the text. It also often the best place where the text is pushed out and applied in directions beyond me, that often challenge me more than my initial (canned/traditional/expected?) ways of application. Then I am ready to preach it! After having worked it over in community. Not always possible better when I get this right!

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Matt Stephens

posted July 18, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Maybe I’m the only advocate here of expository preaching. I’d like to know how to do expository preaching w/o dependence on the script. Our seminary drove into us the importance of preaching, not verse-by-verse, but passage (logical thought unit/pericope) by passage. Unfortunately for modern-day preachers, most biblical texts are awfully complex. To unpack “what this text is teaching” via Explanation, Validation, Illustration, and Application, using in depth exegetical and historical study is a really rigorous, time-consuming process. At least if you’re really concerned with understanding what the author is actually saying and meaning and how to translate that into contemporary experience.
I’m a brand new preacher… only preached maybe a dozen times. And I have tons of room to grow. But so far I’ve been spending so, so much time in preparation of the content that I don’t have time to practice. Andy Stanley may be right that looking down at your notes may come across as not having internalized your message. But I would contend that it doesn’t prove you haven’t. Some people are just more gifted at “speaking” than others. Others, like me, have to think hard about each word they say to make sure it comes out right… which ends up being overly deliberate. So I will probably live and die by the manuscript.

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