Do you get irritated when people do not look you in the eye when talking? I know some cultures do not make eye contact, but in the English-speaking world, eye contact is essential to gaining trust. The same goes for pulpit communication.
The preacher must make as much eye contact as possible. One way the preacher can do this is to master the material. Another way is to stick with a simple one or two page outline with key words to clue in on concepts that must be covered. Many preachers are tied down to their manuscripts because they have a full manuscript in front of them. By moving from full manuscripts to brief outline slowly, the preacher can gain more time to make eye contact with the audience.
One problem with less eye contact is that the preacher’s eyes will dart between the sermon notes and the audience. When this happens, the preacher either gives off a false sense of being robotic or looking untrustworthy due to darting eyes. The famous example of the late President Nixon’s TV appearance can teach the preacher a lot about eye contact. Nixon was not very used to positions of the camera, thus causing his eyes to dart between the camera and the audience. This weakness lost him his election initially. In my experience, the preacher should try to make sustained eye contact with a section of the audience no less than three seconds in order to grab the audience’s attention. If the preacher makes a habitual movement in all sections of the audience, he or she will captivate instead of losing the audience. Almost all successful communicators do not rely on their detailed manuscripts.