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Patterson tells preachers: Don’t use sermon notes

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–A sermon without sermon notes?

For Paige Patterson, it’s no big deal. The Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary president told a group of ministers and students April 2 that he gave up preaching from sermon notes long ago. He challenged the group gathered at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to do likewise.

“You need to be in a situation where you’re able to stand on your feet in any kind of situation and handle the situation as it arises,” said Patterson, who was speaking at a one-day preaching seminar, “Power in the Pulpit,” at the Louisville, Ky., campus.

“You need to learn to think on your feet.”

Patterson said it will take a minister from six months to a year to grow accustomed to preaching without notes.

“It will give you freedom, and it will suggest to your people that you do in fact really know what you’re talking about and that you’re ablaze up there with the presence of the living God,” Patterson said. “I want to put you in a position where … the only crutch you have is the only one you need — the Holy Spirit of God.”

So, what should a pastor do if he loses his place in the sermon?

“If you do, just start talking [about] Jesus. You say, ‘Well, it won’t fit [in the sermon].’ Yes, but they always need to hear about Jesus,” Patterson jokingly told the group. “It won’t make any difference if you forget where you are. You say, ‘Well they’ll know.’ Yes, and they’ll pray for their preacher more so that he won’t forget where he is.”

Besides, Patterson said, a message prepared exegetically will allow a minister “to just look down at the text” of the Bible in order to get back on track.

Patterson did say he sometimes uses notes if he must quote a publication or cite a statistic.

Patterson adamantly opposed using another minister’s sermon.

“You’re smart enough to get along without notes when you preach,” he said. “You’re certainly smart enough to get along without using anybody else’s sermon.”

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  • Michael Foust