Capon, Robert Farrar. The Foolishness of Preaching: Proclaiming the Gospel against the Wisdom of the World. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1998. Chapter 9, “Preaching from Notes” pp. 79-109.
Capon makes a disclaimer at the outset of his chapter about use of notes in preaching. That disclaimer is that he is an idiosyncratic preacher and will not cover any of the fine points of homiletics (Capon 1998, 79). Capon himself prefers use of notes rather than reading a sermon.
The act of preaching takes serious and careful preparation, whether it is a regular sermon or a brief homily. Capon is clear that the process is the same for both longer and shorter occasions. The body of the sermon is what matters. He encourages satisfaction with the central ideas (Capon 1998, 82).
Capon urges very careful reading of the text and its surroundings (Capon 1998, 83). The book, published in 1998, suggests building a spreadsheet on a computer with preaching notes in one column, the text in another, and cross references or illustrations in a third column (Capon 1998, 85). Capon’s format suggestions strike a younger person some 20 years later as humorous. He is especially concerned that the text be large enough to be read easily, going so far as to specify fonts and sizes. The goal is to have a working template to mark up and work with on paper with a pen or pencil throughout the week (Capon 1998, 89). The preacher needs to ask adequate questions of the text so as to pin down a good understanding of the passage and parts “that speak to you” (Capon 1998, 90). The preparation for thesermon is the preacher’s largest commitment in the week. it deserves serious time and preparation. By the end of the week, the body is well established and a beginning and end can be constructed.
On Saturday, Capon advises the preacher to prepare a good copy of the notes, which can the be marked up more. On Sunday, he suggests the preacher review the notes and talk through the sermon so as to have little need for the notes in the pulpit (Capon 1998, 92).
Capon closes the chapter with a version of notes for two different sermons (Capon 1998, 94ff). This reader finds his notes quirky and difficult to interpret. Possibly the best counsel would be to find the organization mode which fits and stick to it.