Imagine having 90 seconds to prepare an 8-minute sermon. Does it make you nervous? Excited? Every week, Amanda Duke leads an Extemporaneous Preaching group where each preacher is assigned a lectionary text, given 90 seconds to prepare, is allowed 8 minutes to preach, and then receives feedback from the group. This is her reflection on her experience with extemporaneous preaching:
I am made for Extemporaneous Preaching. I just am. When I was a kid and my mom would run into the grocery store, I would give mini-sermons to the empty car until she returned. When I was in high school, I won awards in Speech and Debate tournaments for extemporaneous speaking (both foreign and domestic) and impromptu speaking. I learned early on in my college career manuscripts were not always the sign of preparation, and a wide knowledge base was just as important as the final presentation when a defense was needed or discussion came. As I grew into my call for preaching, these lessons translated into my spiritual life and ministry—I could write well enough, but what I wrote was never as important as the passion and voice of authority behind that writing.
I could give speeches and presentations and even sermons with the best of them, but my deep knowledge of the material, the subject at hand, and yes the Scriptures were always more important (and always informed whatever ended up in the presentations). The more I dove into the Scriptures, and allowed them to be written on the tablet of my heart (Proverbs 7:3), the more I realized that a sermon was never more ready to burst out of me; more than this, I learned the joy of seeking deep exegetical insight and mining secret truths from the Scriptures whether I had a sermon to prepare or not!
This became the way I approached my Bible study, my daily reading, my prayer life, and my walk with the LORD. Always parsing through the original language, always meditating on the word day and night (Joshua 1:8), and always allowing the Word of God to live in me truly. I soon gained new enthusiasm for “always being ready to give an account for the hope” we have (1 Peter 3:15), and I wanted to be ready to give solid, exegetical account for the Gospel.
A love for extemporaneous preaching has actually made me more prepared for every sermon I give, and not just every sermon! Every conversation and every prayer comes from a deep well within me that the LORD Himself put there! When I came to Asbury Theological Seminary and discovered there was a small group of students who met to extemporaneously preach, I felt such joy and peace in my heart say, “yes, this is where you belong.” I began to participate in that group and eventually became the facilitator, hopefully joining and leading others in this journey of opening themselves up to the deep knowledge of Scripture that causes them to burst at the seams, ready to give account for the hope they have found.
Along with this deep and ever-present knowledge and study of Scripture, extemporaneous preaching gives believers an opportunity for one of the greatest gifts: a dependence on the Holy Spirit. Because we do not have a manuscript in front of us, we must rely totally on the One who searches the depths of God (1 Corinthians 2:10). It is truly a special experience to know the Holy Spirit is leading you, giving you the words to proclaim the Good News. The former leader of Extemporaneous Preaching on our campus, Seth Seamans, put it this way: “The primary purpose of this group is to help one another more fully depend upon the Holy Spirit and be able to effectively communicate what the Lord places on one’s heart.”
I want to communicate what is on the LORD’s heart and what He has placed on mine—this can be can done through manuscript preaching, I have seen it! But it can also be done when we humbly let go of the manuscripts and let the sermon, the Scripture, the Spirit, live in us.
– Amanda Duke, AoP ’15
How do you feel about extemporaneous preaching? Do you have a testimony, tips, or lingering questions about extemporaneous preaching that you’d like to share? Add your voice to the conversation.
Amanda Duke is a student (M.Div. with a concentration in Evangelism) at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. She is from Lubbock, Texas, and is currently a certified elder candidate in the United Methodist Church. She plans to live out her faith by praying, preaching, and leading Fresh Expressions of church in secularized societies (the United States, Canada, and Europe).
*The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent the beliefs or positions of the Academy of Preachers. The distribution of content by Academy of Preachers is an effort to fulfill our mission to Identify, Network, Support, and Inspire young people in their call to gospel preaching. Our network and participants are widely diverse in geography, ethnicity, culture, gender, theology, tradition, and practice. We give space for those in our network to contribute their unique voices to a global conversation on gospel preaching and Christian ministry.