I have been doing personal research into The First Great Awakening over the last few months.
In my studies, a retired historian friend of mine - Hawkman - suggested I read The Great Awakening: Documents on the Revival of Religion, edited by Richard L. Bushman. I came across this sermon, Defects of Preachers Reproved by Solomon Stoddard.
It was written in 1723.
I was amazed to come across the following paragraph:
The reading of sermons is a dull way of preaching. Sermons when Read are not delivered with Authority and in an affecting way. It is prophesied of Christ, Mic. 5.4 He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the Majesty of the Name of the Lord his God. When Sermons are delivered without Notes, the looks and gesture of the Minister, is a great means to command Attention and stir up Affection. Men are apt to be Drowsy in hearing the Word, and the Liveliness of the Preacher is a means to stir up the Attention of the Hearers, and beget suitable Affection in them. Sermons that are Read are not delivered with Authority, they favour of the Sermons of the Scribes, Mat. 7.29. Experience shews that Sermons Read are not so Profitable as others. It may be Argued, that it is harder to remember Rhetorical Sermons, then meer Rational Discourses; but it may be Answered, that it is far more Profitable to Preach in the Demonstration of the Spirit, than with the enticing Words of mans wisdom.
His argument is incredible. The pastor isn't arguing that preaching without notes merely gives the speaker better stage presence. Instead, he is arguing it gives the preacher greater authority as he is empowered by the Holy Spirit.
From firsthand experience I have seen this in my own personal ministry. When my sermons are rooted deeply in Scripture and study, something happens when I stand before the congregation with only a Bible in hand.
This is why we will be discussing how to preach without notes as one of our topics during the upcoming One Day Preaching Seminar at The Orchard Church and in partnership with North West Baptist Association.
(Hint: Preaching without notes has very little to do with memorization.)
Click on the picture below and register for this free seminar!