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Ordained Servant Online

A Journal for Church Officers

E-ISSN 1931-7115

Notes or Not?

Ordained Servant Cover

January 2011

From the Editor. During the summer internship that turned out to be the prelude to ordination, I had the privilege of being mentored by the late John Hills, Jr., in the Franklin Square OPC. His homiletical advice was to use a full manuscript for the first five years of ministry and then preach without any notes at all. The idea is that manuscript preparation disciplines the preacher in habits necessary for extemporaneous preaching. I never completely took his advice on this matter, because I began with a full set of notes, usually five hand written pages, rather than a full manuscript. My only modification over the years has been to put those notes on a single folded sheet with a word processor. Hills also told me to slow down, take a breath, vary the pace. This advice has proved invaluable. Notes have helped me do this.

This month we have two different perspectives on the use of manuscripts in preaching. A continuing conversation on preaching—the centerpiece of Reformed worship—is vital to the future of our churches. A dogmatic approach to the use of notes in the pulpit seems to me unwarranted. Matthew Cotta, standing against the tide of homiletical opinion, enumerates the benefits of manuscript preaching in "A Brief Defense of Manuscript Preaching." Allan Story takes the opposite view in "Without a Manuscript?" Both men make excellent points from which every preacher may benefit.

I report, you decide. So it seems to me that the wisest approach to the question of preaching notes is to view whatever we take or don't take into the pulpit as a means to an end. What happens in the preaching moment is what counts—the end—and while certain principles for achieving that end are non-negotiable, we must be wary of making notes or no notes a requirement. Many, like John Hills, did both, and I think in the proper order. Each man should decide what best suits his own gifts and situation. I offer my thoughts "On the Matter of Notes" in the context of the electronic environment in which all preaching in the Western world takes place. My view of notes is not so much a compromise between manuscript or extemporaneous preaching as a third way.

Finally, G. I. Williamson and several signers offer a response to Matthew Kingsbury's article "The Church-Integrated Family," to which he adds a clarification.

And don't miss Servant Poetry.

Blessings in the Lamb,
Gregory Edward Reynolds


Ordained Servant exists to help encourage, inform, and equip church officers for faithful, effective, and God glorifying ministry in the visible church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Its primary audience is ministers, elders, and deacons of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, as well as interested officers from other Presbyterian and Reformed churches. Through high quality editorials, articles, and book reviews we endeavor to stimulate clear thinking and the consistent practice of historic, confessional Presbyterianism.

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