Why do I use a fountain pen to write my sermons? As I travel, people often approach me and ask which fountain pens I use to manuscript my sermons. They know I love fountain pens and use them regularly.
I am not alone in this practice. John MacArthur uses a fountain pen to write his sermons. Al Mohler uses a fountain pen to do the same. R.C. Sproul used a fountain pen, though he preached without notes. Many other preachers today also use a fountain pen. Why do so many use these pens? And why should you consider using a fountain pen?
For me, it all started when I first began preaching many years ago. There were no laptop computers, so you brought your handwritten notes in a notebook into the pulpit. A fountain pen was so much easier to use than a ballpoint pen. There is a greater flow of ink, so therefore, you can write faster. That is how I began preparing my sermons.
As with most things, we often become creatures of habit. We lock into a system and continue to use it over time. Using a fountain pen has been a trusted personal practice for me.
But there are some advantages as to why I do not shift back to a laptop computer. Let me just say that I put myself through seminary by writing and producing magazines. In those days, I typed out all my articles. As a result, I became fast with a typewriter. That said, I could go back to typing. With the ease of a laptop, it would be quite quick. But here are some advantages I have found to using a fountain pen.
First, I think using a fountain pen conveys your personality better than typing. With a fountain pen, you express a unique flair in your writing. In my experience, what I have typed tends to be more academic, more clinical, and more rigid. I know that may not be the case for everyone. Of course, the manuscripts for many great books were typed and much of the personality of the author has come through.
For me, though, my typed notes came before my eyes like a phonebook. The typed page looks like more mere data, rather than a dynamic sermon. But when I pick up a fountain pen, my tone in writing is different. With the angle of the pen, the nib, the flow of the ink, I express myself with more of a flair. There is more of me that comes through the pen.
For whatever reason, as I write out my manuscript, I hear myself preaching in my subconscious. That comes through much more as I write notes with a fountain pen rather than typing.
It is important that you have personality in your preaching. For that to happen, it helps to have personality in your notes. To ensure that happens, use whatever means that enhance your individual style. For me, that happens with a fountain pen.
Second, whatever I write by hand has a tendency to flow up my arm and into my head. I remember better what I handwrite, underline, and mark up with a pen. When I typed, my notes became blurred together in my brain. So, I like to use a fountain pen, because I better retain what I am writing.
In addition, recent studies indicate that the male brain best remembers what it handwrites. Because of this, some colleges have considered not allowing their students to use laptops in the classroom. Instead, they are requiring students to handwrite their lecture notes.
Third, when I use a fountain pen, I can make last second changes to my sermon, even on the front row of church before I preach. I do not have to run to my office, retype something, and reprint my notes. I can make on-the-fly additions and changes to my manuscript until the last second before I step into the pulpit.
Although you could write additions in the margin of a printed page, there is greater freedom to do so with handwritten notes.
Ease and Smoothness
Finally, I love the feel of a fountain pen in my hand. There is a particular pleasure in the nib gliding across the page like an ice skater across the ice. I have found these writing instruments to be tremendously useful as I prepare my sermons.
The ease, smoothness, and flow make the fountain pen a non-negotiable study companion for me personally. I would encourage you to consider including this tool as a help in your sermon preparation as an expositor.