This page of the web site will serve as my blog. Here I will share things that I have learned more recently on the subject of extemporaneous preaching.

WINTER - 2014

During one of our sessions someone mentioned Ted Talks, a series of public speaking seminars held around the country during the past several years. I had never heard of them so could not comment on them during our class. I have now listened to several of these talks and have enjoyed them very much. I have a few observations I would like to make.

1. Most of the speakers I have seen so far are extremely fluent and may be giving talks they have given many times before. They border on being memorized presentations with very few of the typical characteristics of speaking freely. (ah’s and um’s and repeating things etc.) Some qualities of speaking freely, however, are clearly present such as gestures and facial expressions which go perfectly with the dialog. If a pastor preached an extemp sermon at 3 services in a row on Sunday morning, I believe this kind of fluency would be the result.

So far I have only seen one person who read their talk. I saw one very effective speaker who had his notes on a lectern but used them like a pastor preaching extemporaneously. In other words he only looked down at his notes to see what came next. At one of the venues they had a tela- prompter device in front of the speaker on the floor which she looked at from time to time but again did not read a manuscript.

2. One of my favorite talks is promoted quite heavily on the Ted Talk web site and is by British author Sir Ken Robinson. His talk explaining how our schools educate creativity out of children knocked my socks off. Even with his English accent I could understand every word and after a while hung on every word. Later I came across a talk he has done more recently. It seems that his first talk was so well received that they invited him back for another appearance. This time his talk was not half as effective. He still spoke well but his material was not as good. He evidently gave us the bulk of his thoughts on the subject during the first 20 minute talk and didn’t have much more to say about it.

It started me thinking about how difficult it is to come up with new material. It is one thing to put together one 20 minute talk and quite another to write an original 20 minute sermon every week of the year. It makes you appreciate what pastors are called upon to do. We have a simple message, God sent His only Son into the world to redeem the world. To take that simple message and come up with something new to say about it for a life time of preaching has to rank as one of the greatest challenges in the history of public speaking.

3. In the class Ted Talks were mentioned as an example of the fact that public speaking is not dead. This example will be a wonderful addition to my comments on that subject in my “Why Speak Extemporaneously” lecture. These talks are powerful ways of communicating new ideas and concepts using a very simple and yet effective format of a 20 minute or less extemporaneous talk.

Two weeks ago my wife and I were running late in getting to our little country church and didn’t arrive until right when the service was supposed to begin. I had hoped to sneak in and sit in the back but as we arrived the doors opened wide and the usher announced, “We have a pastor.” This was followed by cheers and applause from the 40 or so parishoers gathered for worship. It seems that the Pastor came down with the flu very suddenly and could not make it to church. They asked me if I could lead them in worship. The pastor had picked some hymns which the organist was ready with but there was no bulletin as he normally prints that after he arrives on Sunday morning. (He lives 60 miles from the church) We put our heads together and decided on Service of the Word from With One Voice. There was a lay reader so during the reading of the lessons I tried to think of what I could do for a sermon.

I had recently written a devotional for the Norwegian American Weekly about cross country skiing and the winter Olympics and I gave some thought to how I could expand that into a somewhat longer piece for the sermon. After only these few short minutes to think about it I was able to preach for 10 or 12 minutes completely in an impromptu way.

What amazed me was how much came to me on the spur of the moment as I had to think on my feet. We all have this ability as talkers and as long as we have something in mind that we want to get across our brains will do a wonderful job of helping us think of what to say. As you might expect a parishioner came up to me afterwards and said that my sermon was just what a sermon should be. I said I suppose you mean “short.” No he said what I liked was that you told a story, applied it to a Biblical text and then helped us see how it applied also to us today. I had the thought that we may be guilty of making this preaching thing altogether too complicated.

I used to have a blog which I never added to very often. It is not supported any longer by Google so rather than try to get a new one going I am going to do all my blogging on my web site. For the time being this is still functioning. I will call my blogs Extemp Extras and put them on this web site as well as send them out to former students.

My next class will be at Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center in Carefree, AZ - January 23-25, 2018. I always appreciate the referrals.

Blessings on your preaching,
Jerry Larson