Thoughts on the Sermon Notes of Mark Driscoll, Mark Dever, Tim Keller, and Others

Josh Harris posted some sermon notes on his blog from some respected preachers, inclusing the likes of Mark Driscoll and Tim Keller. Being a preacher myself, I was curious to see what their notes looked like. I was expecting some diversity, but wasn’t prepared for just how different the notes and moethods were.

Mark Dever features a full 11 page printed manuscript that is then written on with ques for his delivery of the sermon (ie. “slowly”, etc). Dever is meticulous and I’m not at all suprised at his notes.

Tim Keller’s notes were the most interesting. Keller’s 6 pages don’t have a single literary break for paragraphs or anything. It is nonstop writing featuring coded shorthand spelling. Keller does mark his points and subpoints, etc by use of bold type and other visual signs. I’m assuming that Keller wants to compact his thoughts as much as possible.

Mark Driscoll preaches for an hour with no real notes, other than a few things scribbled on a stick it note. Driscoll was reluctant to provide his “notes” because he doesn’t want people emulating his method. Driscoll is the only one of the featured preachers who basically preaches extempore. From time to time I will attempt this and personally think that this is closer to how the Apostles preached. You study and pray hard, and then let it rip. Of course, there should be something of a discernible outline in your head. More surprising was Driscoll’s admission that all of his jokes are totally spontaneous and unprompted.

C.J. Mahaney features 7 pages of printed notes with heavy written editorial on top of that.  The editorial includes crossing out sections, writing in more thoughts, and arrows poiting to subpoints. I’m curious if Mahaney always does this or if this was a particulary edited piece. Perhaps he does the editing the morning of and doesn’t reprint with the fixes. This is very similar to what I personally do. I use about 4-8 printed pages of an outline/partial manuscript, which I then read on Sunday morning, making any last minute revisions by way of pen. Sometimes I do some heavy editing, while some weeks I don’t change a thing.

Josh Harris features 11 pages of preliminary written notes, followed by a 15 page printed full manuscript. Harris essentially works from less to more, from outline to full manuscript.

There were more notes featured on the post, but I found these to be the most interesting sample of the diversity you will find among preachers. Driscoll consumes much, and then preaches extempore. Harris writes out his intital thoughts after study, and then flushes it out into a full manuscript. Dever is the only one who features oratory ques on when he should speak slower, etc. Keller uses a pretty complex system of shorthand and visible markers in his notes. Mahaney prints out and then does just as much editorial work with the pen (contrasting Harris writing out first, and then printing out the final product).

I personally have never used a full manuscript. I don’t include ques for when to slow down or inflect my voice. My humor is also unscripted. My notes are a partial manuscript outline. It takes me about 6-10 minutes for each page, depending on how much of it is points that need extempore expostion. I also don’t write out a bunch of application per se. A lot of that comes extempore. My goals in the preparation phase is to gain a full grasp of the syntax of the text, to then derive the heartbeat of the text, then contemplate how this should preached to my particular audience, to then writing it out. I use Logos software for my language studies and also consult about 10-20 commentari

© 2011, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

2 comments on “Thoughts on the Sermon Notes of Mark Driscoll, Mark Dever, Tim Keller, and Others
  1. Very interesting and important to see their is great diversity, so that no young preachers feel they must fit into a mold. Driscoll is so brilliant I was not surprised at his method-he reads a book a day and probably totally saturates himself in whatever text he is preaching. I have never used Logos. Thanks for the overview. I like Mahaney’s keys for speaking. Some of that comes from preaching and thinking through and assimilating the message prior to preaching it.

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