A friend of mine recently told me he was rebuked after preaching a sermon at a church where he was a guest. The rebuke was not for ignoring or misrepresenting Scripture- he is a diligent expositor. The rebuke was certainly not for being dull or lifeless- he is an engaging and winsome communicator. The rebuke was not for neglecting the gospel- he is a passionate evangelist. The rebuke was for preaching with notes. He was told that "at seminary we are taught not to preach with notes". The rebuker was a seminary student who I pray had his heart in the right place even if his words lacked wisdom or kindness.
The truth is I preach with notes- a full manuscript. I was encouraged recently by other faithful preachers who allowed their notes to be published by Josh Harris on his blog. Here are Tim Keller's notes. Here are Mark Dever's notes. Here are C.J. Mahaney's notes. While I know other brothers who preach completely from memory or from only short-hand notes, there is no "one way". I remember in John Stott's book on preaching (I don't have the reference handy) he argues that there is too much preaching from notes but he meant that preachers can rely too heavily on rote preaching rather than preaching from the heart. He's right. Notes should not be a teleprompter for a performance. One should preach from the overflow of his deep wrestling and devotion with the text. Listeners should hear that the preacher is moved by the text not just regurgitating notes. However notes protect from rambling, rabbit-chasing, and soap-boxes. The Holy Spirit guides me in the study as much as He does from the pulpit so my notes are a product of that.
So what are your thoughts... if you're a preacher, notes, limited notes, or no notes? If you are a listener I'm interested in your thoughts as well. There is a delay to comment posting as I have to clear it first (I've had a spam problem) but let's hear it!?