Monday, April 30, 2007

Introverted Preaching

Preaching is my favorite part of the job. It's excruciatingly hard work and it takes more out of you emotionally and spiritually than most people know, but for me, it's a deeply rewarding role. Probably more than the actual preaching, I relish the preparation time. This is when the academic comes out of me: the research, the reading, the thinking, the writing, the re-writing.

I've always written out a full manuscript of my sermons. It helps me to think, but even more, I find that I need a manuscript when I stand up to preach, because I don't think on my feet very well. Even if I have a thorough outline, I feel off guard and far more nervous and I am more likely to stumble over my words or have bad transitions. This is a part of the introverted package. Introverts aren't generally skilled at speaking off the top of their heads. Sometimes I get frustrated that I'm bound to my manuscript and that I look down more often than others, but I also know this is my best strategy for preaching well.

Recently, I asked someone what they thought of a sermon they had just heard from another pastor, and the person said: "It was really good. He didn't really use any notes. He seemed like he was speaking from the heart." I have heard this on several occasions, and it drives me CRAZY!! As though the person who is able to speak off the top of his head is more genuine than the person who uses a manuscript. I am speaking "from the heart" just as much as the next guy, but my heart happens to best express itself in written words and paragraphs. This is where my evangelical background seems to really work against me, as people expect a very conversational, sit-down-and-have-coffee-with-the-pastor sort of dialogue, and many think that if the pastor happens to bring a text along, then he must be disingenuous.