Using Greek in ministry

8 08 2010

Rod Decker has collated a helpful collection of essays on using Greek in ministry, including essays by Luther, Piper, and the great granddaddy of Greek grammarians, A.T. Robertson.

Check it out here.

Posted by Con Campbell


Preaching without notes: Method III

4 08 2010

3. Learn the structure of the talk. This involves learning how each main point of the talk connects to the next, and ultimately enables the preacher to “see” the whole talk in his head. I organize my notes into big points, each with minor points. To give the talk without notes, the first step will be to be able to recall your three (or four, or whatever) main points with ease. If you can’t do this, then forget about trying to preach without notes; it’s not going to happen. But I think that remembering three main points is not going to be a problem for most preachers.

After learning those big points, learn the other key elements of the wider structure: What is your introduction? What is your conclusion? After doing this you should be able to recall:


Point 1

Point 2

Point 3


At this stage, you have the broad structure of the whole talk in your head. If you had to give the talk from this point, it might not be polished, and the details might not be clear, but you could still rattle off a 5-10 minute talk with some coherence. Now it’s just a matter of going deeper…

Posted by Con Campbell

Preaching without notes: Method II

7 06 2010

My second point:

2. Write the talk to be memorized. What I mean by this is that as the talk is being written, it should be constructed in such a way that enables easy memorization.

The most important element here is structure. Say the talk has three main points (for a change). The first thing I will be conscious of as I write a new talk is how easy it is for me to remember those three points. Does one lead to the next? Are they easily discerned from the passage being preached? Can I keep all three in my head at the same time? Apart from helping with noteless preaching, these checks ensure structural clarity for our hearers.

The second most important element is the “connectors” in the talk. Once you know what the three main points are (the skeletal structure of the talk), I need to know how to move from one to the next. At this point, I will write (and memorize) short little connecting statements: one at the end of point one, another after point two, etc.

After this, writing a talk to be memorized involves filling out the content of the main points. This is the hardest thing to do in a way that ensures memorization, but the rule is: keep it simple stupid. Not that the content should be simplistic, or lacking depth, or un-profound, but that the content should not be unnecessarily complex in its structure or logic. The logic and structure within each point ought to be clear; if it’s clear, I can remember it. Again, this kind of clarity makes for a good talk to listen to as well. And this does not do away with detail; I can remember details fine, as long as I know how they fit in the broader thing.

If you can write a talk that has these elements, I’d say you’re well on the way to noteless preaching!

Posted by Con Campbell

Preaching without notes: Method I

11 05 2010

Sometime ago I posted about preaching without notes, and promised to follow up with some thoughts about method. I haven’t been blogging for a while, but several people have asked when I would fulfill that promise, so here goes. I think it will be easier to tackle it in a few small chunks rather than lay it all out at once.

I’ve been preaching without notes for six months now, and in that time have preached 34 times, including a couple of occasions in which I’ve preached two different talks back to back, with about 15 minutes in between. Last month I preached 11 times, nearly all different talks. All of this has tested my “method” pretty well, and has helped me to reflect on what I’m doing. So here’s my first point:

1. Know the passage really well. It sounds obvious, since any preacher will study the text closely. But my point includes more than this. First, it is more important to know the passage than to know your talk. This is a good rule anyway, but it especially helps in preaching without notes. One reason for this is that even if you forget bits of your talk, you can still speak about the passage with clarity and depth of understanding.

Also, close attention to the structure of the passage, and particular words and phrases, can serve as a memory trigger for the talk. I will make sure that I know how I want to break a passage up, and then will know what I want to say about each section of the passage. For example, if the first unit is verses 1–3, I’ll expound that unit, drawing out its most important elements. I might have an illustration to help with understanding the main point of the unit, and I’ll know what kind of application I want to draw from the unit. As long as I know the passage well, all I really need to remember are those three steps. As I move through the whole passage, the process is much the same for each unit.

More to come later…

Posted by Con Campbell

Preaching without notes

8 01 2010

I’m a convert to preaching without any notes.

I know it’s not for everyone, but I reckon more preachers could do it if they wanted to.

I’ve preached evangelistically without notes for years, by memorising certain talks that I knew I would get to repeat many times. But I’ve not thought it “worth it” to preach all the time without notes. Until now.

I recently preached 5 talks at the Queensland CMS Summer School, one talk each day. With the exception of one point in my last talk, during which I was struggling with a severe stomach bug, I didn’t forget anything I had planned to say. I really enjoyed the freedom of not using notes, and was surprised by how much detail could still be offered without them.

Why is it good?

There are several things I can think of, but three things stand out.

1. The ability to connect to hearers is greatly enhanced away from a lectern. I’ve preached a lot with notes and without, and there’s no question in my mind that without notes, connection is better. I feel better connected, and from feedback it seems that hearers do too.

2. The freedom to “reshape” the talk as you go can be very useful. Sometimes I don’t like being locked into my notes, and certain parts of a talk might be crying out for further comment or a slightly different direction. I think the vibe of “the moment” is key here, and it’s all intuition, but preachers know what I mean, I’m sure. Now, I used to improv when using notes anyway, but it can be awkward then returning to notes after an unexpected improv bit. By not using notes at all, this problem disappears.

3. There is a need to be more connected to the text being preached than to the notes of the sermon. I used to need to know my notes and the text, but now I only need to know the text.


Surprisingly, I never felt at risk of forgetting what I’d planned to say, so that was not a drawback.

Also, as mentioned above, I had suspected that details might suffer, but this was not the case. In fact, I think details were communicated more clearly this way than they have been with notes at various times.

A common assumption is that learning the talk will add so much time to preparation that it is not worth the effort. I agree, if it does take a lot of time, but if you can work out a method that does not require much time, this is not a problem. I think I’ve discovered a way that works for me, so it adds maybe an hour of extra work.

I think the main drawback is that 70% of the feedback I received (especially from other preachers) included some comment or question about preaching without notes. There’s a risk that it (at least initially) distracts from the message. Which is kinda counter-productive, huh? But once people get used to it, I think that problem disappears.

Posted by Con Campbell

A different kind of resurrection prophecy?

10 11 2009

Yesterday I wrote a talk for church on Luke 24:1–12. It’s such an interesting passage, and one of the things that comes out at me is how Jesus (might have) predicted the unbelief that followed the discovery of the empty tomb.

First, there are many references to unbelief in the passage:

v.1 = the women bring spices for Jesus’ dead body

v.3 = they didn’t find the body

v.4 = they were wondering about this

v.5 = the angels ask: ‘why are you looking for the living among dead?’

v.6 = ‘don’t you remember what he told you?’

v.8 = then they remembered

v.11 = the apostles did not believe the women

v.12 = After running to the tomb, Peter left wondering what happened


I think this may have been what Jesus had in mind in Luke 18:8: ‘When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

In other words, with Jesus’ resurrection, not only were his own words (and those of the prophets) fulfilled, in that he was raised after three days, but his prediction regarding lack of faith at his ‘coming’ was also fulfilled.


Posted by Con Campbell

More on hip preachers…

15 09 2009

From Challies: I’ve never been mistaken for Brad Pitt

Posted by Con Campbell