Writing for Preaching
The Spoken Word
Preaching is a major emphasis at Westminster, and you will have to write and deliver many sermons during your time here. As you think about how to write for preaching, consider the nature of preaching. First, preaching is proclaiming God’s truth to His people. The preacher uses the spoken word, employing his unique voice in the clear articulation of God’s message. Second, preaching is also applying God’s truth to His people. This emphasis on application is one of the major differences between a lecture and a sermon. Preaching not only communicates truth but also applies that truth to the lives of the listeners.
As you practice preaching, you will be asked to write out your sermons, which is called “manuscripting.” The nature of preaching as both proclamation and application of God’s Word directly affects how you write your sermon manuscript:
- Write the way you speak. Remember that you are going to be speaking when you preach. Unlike an academic essay, when you write your manuscript you should write in spoken English, using contractions, ordinary vocabulary, and even idioms. You might want to indicate pauses, areas of emphasis, or other rhetorical elements to help your delivery. After you have written your first draft, read the sermon aloud and ask yourself, Does it sound natural?
- Write so your listener follows. Your listeners must be able to understand and follow you without being able to look back at what you said before. Use repetition and vivid imagery to help listeners remember important points. Provide a clear structure, paying careful attention to transitions between your points. Read through your sermon again. Does your sermon have enough aids for people who are listening?
- Write for your specific listeners. You are speaking to a specific group of people when you preach. That means you should use personal pronouns like “you” in your sermon. Be direct in addressing your listeners. Include illustrations that suit them. Apply the truth to your listeners, not just in general terms. Read through your sermon again with your listeners in mind. Is your sermon communicating directly to them?