Tim Keller on Sermon Preparation

“So, two weeks ahead I sit down with the text of the passage of the Bible I’m going to preach on and I spent about four hours figuring out what I think the outline of that text is, the meaning of the text, I need to look up what the commentators think about, maybe problematic verses, and I come up with an outline and a basic, you might say an exegesis or an exposition of the passage itself.  I write this up and I send it to my musicians, we’re going to be putting it in a bulletin and then they’re going to be choosing music for it.  I send it to other preachers who some of them are going to be preaching sermons on the same text.  Then, three days before, I sit down with this outline and I spend another four hours turning the bible study into a sermon and they’re not the same thing.  Bible study is more abstract, what does the text say.  The sermon is more life related, what does this mean to me.  So I spend four hours two weeks ahead on the text.  I spend four hours turning it into a life-related sermon and that’s usually on the Friday before.  And then on Saturday, I spend another six hours on it just trying to make it shorter, because it’s always too long and so I make it shorter, make it shorter, make it shorter, make it shorter.  So I spend about 14 to 16 hours a week writing a sermon and I spend all day preaching it because I speak four times on a Sunday.  And so I actually put in about 25 hours a week into producing and delivering one public speaking presentation before I do anything else in my job.”

Great stuff – huh! You can check out more HERE.

Of course, the great awakening of the 18th century would NEVER have happened under this system – because Whitefield, Welsey and Edwards had NO time to prepare their 15 / 20 or more messages a week that they preached. For Whitefield, his preparation were the hours of quiet devotional study in the early mornings pouring over the Bible and reading Matthew Henry’s Commentary.


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