How to use these preaching notes (authentically)

It won’t take you long to realise these notes are not a transcript of my sermons. They are writing in the raw. The scripts are often unkempt, unedited and uncontrolled but they are my lifeline. As I stand at the front of a church to deliver God’s word I need to know where I’m going. So these notes are crafted to give enough scaffolding to build the message while simultaneously allowing me freedom from being note-bound.

How they’re formatted

Sentence plus bullets

As I preach I’m always using ideas that need supporting sentences or phrases so I use a visual structure to let me know where I am from moment to moment. The main sentence is left-justified and its supporting phrases come under bullet points immediately afterwards. For me this simple trick gives my eye a location on the page that I can return to quickly when looking down at the notes.

Indents of quotes and text

When a Bible verse or a quotation finds its way into the notes it will always be indented. I usually write out Bible verses in full as this saves the distraction of having to find the verse in my Bible on the lectern. When I move seamlessly from Bible to script, the absence of an eye or head movement adds to the flow of the talk.


You will find a variety of abbreviations used in my notes so I feel I ought to spill the beans as to what they mean. If, as a speaker, you are using notes on a platform you will find it advantageous to develop a collection of short-cut phrases or symbols of your own. These become quick-fire reminders which instantly make your mind go along a certain track or remind you to do something. Among the most common are these:

When preaching I usually use a Powerpoint presentation to re-enforce the message. The danger of Powerpoint is that we cram it with too much info, so I put up only the headlines and appropriate pictures to help people receive and understand the message. When Powerpoint has to be clicked to advance the slide or initiate the next animation you will find this symbol in the text. You may ask “why don’t you just get rid of them all before uploading your notes to the web?” The honest answer is I’ve got better things to do with life that edit out little text strings. So there.

>>> (Three angle-brackets)

This simply means ‘wing it’! For example, if I am very familiar with an illustration or know a story intimately I may not write out its text in full.

It can also mean “ask the Holy Spirit to inspire you at this point”. This particularly true of the prayer I will pray at the end of most sermons. I rarely plan or script this as I believe it is a point at which I need to be sensitive to whatever God is saying to that congregation. During that prayer I will often draw of the threads of the message I’ve just preached, picking up especially on things that have had a particular impact with that congregation. I’m consistently amazed at the way the Holy Spirit takes and uses these unscripted moments to reach someone’s heart.


Here I’m using an illustration. Like all communication, preaching is influenced by ontology (the branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of being) and philology (the understanding of words and how they convey their meaning). It is communicated with language which may either clarify or obscure. Therefore one of the great challenges to the preacher is to anchor his or her message in language, words, idioms and concepts that conveys the same meaning to the hearer as it did to the speaker.

Copying and plagiarism

My hope is that you will find these sermons a blessing and a benefit. So if you are preaching and want to use the material here, please consider reworking it in your own words. By doing this you are making it your own and it’s allowing the word to impact your soul in the same way that it impacted mine when I wrote it. Many of the ideas we handle are common and available to everyone who studies a bit. So if you want to use my ideas, go ahead, but be sure you do it with a clear conscience in regard to plagiarism. Nuf said.

If there’s anything else that is unclear, please message me using the ‘contact us’ button above and I’ll be happy to help.