I count it an absolute blessing every month when I have the opportunity to conduct one of the worship services at the Bowery Mission located in Manhattan. Here at Emmanuel Baptist Church, members of the ministerial team are responsible for service at the mission on the first Monday of every month. One of the reasons I appreciate the experience so much is how it testifies to the plain truths of the Gospel and the preaching in which Jesus modeled throughout the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). It is because of this that I can definitely claim that the Bowery experience has fundamentally improved my preaching and caused me to reexamine the trust I claimed to have in the move and power of the Holy Spirit.
I don’t make the above statement lightly, but I also don’t mean to engage in hyperbole either. Let me break it down. I’ll begin with the fact that in this stage of my preaching career, I am what is referred to as a “manuscript preacher.” This simply means that unlike some preachers who can completely preach extemporaneously, from memory, or with some notes, I write out a complete word for word sermon. Even if I don’t completely say everything that is written/typed down, I am following the manuscript that I wrote. Nothing is wrong with any approach, and in fact, there are many prominent preachers who I know personally or know of who use a complete manuscript as well. And these men and women of God have been preaching for decades. One of my preaching mentors, who is truly dynamic, explained to me that he has never entered a pulpit or delivered a sermon without a full manuscript prepared. Nevertheless, I’ve never considered that my manuscript held me back in anyway until I stopped and realized (or I was stopped by a powerful force outside of self) that I don’t use one for any preaching or homiletic moment outside of an official church service.
Whenever I preach at the Bowery or have provided homilies in any forum outside of a church service or specialized Christian Religious gathering (i.e. conference), I have not written out a full manuscript. For full disclosure, some of these instances had to do with time constraints, but certainly not the majority. I have certainly used quick bullet point notes based on the scripture that I have studied and prayed over, but nothing more than that. This realization then caused me to do some deeper reflection. At first, I wondered if instead of preaching what The Lord wanted me to preach, did I somehow ignore God and insert myself? I quickly ruled this line of thought out as the very reason I use a manuscript is so that I have a structured and concise message that is easy to digest. I spend many hours praying, reading repeatedly, and studying before and during the writing of the manuscript. I know for a fact that the Holy Spirit has literally given me insights that I could not have come to simply by my human intelligence and savvy. The manuscript has for the most part worked for me throughout my almost four years of preaching ministry. So, after eliminating the now ridiculous notion that my manuscripts were not divinely instructed, I discovered what it actually was.
(To Be Cont.)
Associate Pastor of Youth & Young Adults