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Timothy Keller on How He Prepares Sermons

The Keller method: Plan ahead. Read books. Keep a weekly schedule. Write several drafts. Pastor real people.

Preaching Today: Tell us about your planning process for preaching?

Timothy Keller: Every June I flesh out all of my sermon topics, titles, and texts for the coming year, and then I send them off to my music director and other associate preachers. During vacation and study time in the summer, I read books on the themes I'll be treating in the sermons during the coming year. At the end of the summer, my reading leads me to revise the list of topics and texts, and then we are good to go.

What does your weekly sermon preparation look like?

Ten days before the Sunday that I will preach a sermon, I spend three hours doing basic exegesis and outlining. The Friday morning before I preach the sermon, I spend five hours writing a first draft of the sermon. On Saturday morning I spend four hours writing a second draft. That Saturday night I spend another two to three hours writing a third draft. With each draft I shorten and streamline the message. I then get up very early on Sunday morning and spend ...

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Displaying 1–5 of 5 comments

Arthur Smith

December 24, 2009  12:37pm

That was short and sweet,but full of insight. Thank you

Leon Williams

November 30, 2009  4:04pm

Clearly arranged steps that are reality based versus ideal... His strategy keeps him focused even while engaging pastoral care ministry. I'm unable to plan as far out as Keller does however the emphasis during the final days of sermon preparation is vital for communicating a clear articulate message.

Frederick Garnes

November 27, 2009  12:00am

Very helpful His process seems to allow the Holy Spirit to be the main mover and molder of the sermon

James Chester

November 25, 2009  6:25pm

Most seminary put most of their empahsis on preparing exegetical papers. I think this is important in the overall scheme of things. However to be able to shorten this for sermon exegesis is quite a task. Developing your own preparation style does take work. This is very helpful to see how other pastor approach this task. I hope we see more information on this subject by other pastors.

Ben Holland

November 23, 2009  5:36pm

As a young pastor (age 35), it's good to hear from experienced preachers regarding their sermon preparation. I'm still figuring out my preparation style. I appreciate the realization that young ministers (and solo pastors) have a difficult time spending 15+ hours in sermon preparation each week.

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