Why You Should Practice Your Preaching Out Loud


One of the scenes in the Disney movie Cool Runnings that stands out in my mind is the one where they are together in a bathtub practicing their turns. Crammed together in their hotel tub, they turn one way and then the other. The scene portrays something of the oddities of practice and the lengths that professionals go to be good. Practicing a sermon out loud is the same. It feels odd because it is out of place and not reflective of the actual event but it is one of the best things you can do to prepare a sermon. 

Outside of Sunday, its the most real your practice can be

Most sermons are preached once. It happens in the midst of a gathering and then is discarded. Your context may have reason to return to a sermon, like a second service, but generally, a sermon preached is finished. Early in my preaching experience, I realized that when I preached I would keep a running tally of my mistakes or awkward phrasing. At the end of my sermon, I would be aware of the problems and move on. I would never really get the chance to do better. When I started practicing I found I could experience the sermon as if I was preaching it and take note of what didn't quite work. The phrases that were awkward could be rehearsed, the important parts could be better emphasized, and altogether I was able to work on my sermon on a new level. 

Written and spoken words are different

Regardless of whether you preach from notes, a written script, or freely without any paper when you preach, you are engaged in a fundamentally different task than writing. The written word can be absorbed or dwelt on because it continues to exist in perfect order after you've read it. You can return to clarify ideas and you can pause to think about what you just read. The spoken word has no time for such things. It is happening, it is present, and it is alive. As such, in the act of speaking words takes on a life different to the act of writing. It is less contemplative and more active. By practicing, you experience this living word and come to know what it is like. In doing so, you gain insight into how your words will be acting in the preaching event.

In the end, I can't convince you to do practice out loud because it is hard to quantify exactly what the benefits are. However strange it may feel, give it a try.