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Extemporaneous preaching is a style of preaching involving extensive preparation of all the sermon except for the precise wording. The topic, basic structure and scripture to be used are all determined in advance, and the preachers saturate themselves in the details necessary to present their message so thoroughly that they are able to present the message with neither detailed notes nor perhaps even an outline. Consequently, preachers may find themselves unable to deliver a message with the same precision as people using detailed notes or memorizing detailed aspects of their speech.
The style is distinct from impromptu preaching where the preacher gives no specific preparation to their message.
- The first thing to be observed is, that the student who would acquire facility in this art, should bear it constantly in mind, and have regard to it in all his studies and in his whole mode of study. -Henry Ware, Jr.
On the other hand, it is distinct from many other forms of memorized preaching. Proponents claim that the importance of preaching demands it be extemporaneous.
- A reflecting mind will feel as if it were infinitely out of place to present in the pulpit to immortal souls, hanging upon the verge of everlasting death, such specimens of learning and rhetoric. -Charles Finney
The style was popular in the late 19th century among Baptist (Primitive Baptist especially), Methodist, Unitarian, and some Presbyterians preachers, such as Blackleach Burritt. Some of the more famous preachers who employed it were Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Charles Grandison Finney and Peter Cartwright.
- Raymond, Marcius D (1892). Sketch of Rev. Blackleach Burritt and related Stratford families : a paper read before the Fairfield County Historical Society, at Bridgeport, Conn., Friday evening, Feb. 19, 1892. M.D. Raymond.
- Burritt, Dr. Alice (1911). The Family of Blackleach Burritt, Jr. Gibson Brothers.
- Dexter, Franklin B (1903). Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College with Annals of the College History. Henry Holt & Company. p. 103.