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Tim Keller on Writing a Sermon

1. Two weeks ahead: Four hours of Bible Study / exegesis.
2. A few days before: Moving from 'what does the text say' to 'what does it mean to me' (life related)
3. The Day before: Six hours editting it down.
4. On the day: Four x1 hour preaching it.

Never yet had to preach a sermon four times in one day, though our church is going back to back services in the autumn so twice is going to become more common. I'm definitely a get ahead kind of person - the four hours at least two weeks ahead is a great idea.

Step 2 seems the really hard step - turning an outline of the passage into an applied sermon, Keller excels at this. And then editting is definitely time consuming but pays great dividends for making the word stick.

Can't help but think it's all too easy to go from Step 1 to Step 4 without doing 2 or 3 at all.

So far Step 4 has only ever been preach it once, though we're going back-to-back services in September so here comes preaching twice...


  1. Mmm ... there are some great tips in that. It's always helpful when men like Tim Keller share with us how they do what they do :)

  2. The missing question strikes again.

    Add this how about 2.2 - "What would a complete sceptic ask if the message of this passage was explained? How can I address their reasonable questions with reasonable answers, without simply depending on their accepting scripture as an authority?"

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. In view of Keller's preaching, I'd guess those are exactly the kinds of questions he spends four hours engaging with, along with the same questions for Christians - what beliefs / idols do they have that stop them believing what this text says...

    I'd love to see him outline more detail on what the four hours of stage 2 might look like though, would serve us all well.

  5. i do really enjoy tim's preaching but I
    am not certain that the zipping from one service to the other to preach the same sermon four times is a great model - what about raising up other preachers?

  6. Krish, I'm inclined to agree... though I guess if you're in Redeemer you'd be keen to have him preach... same question I guess to Piper, to Driscoll etc.

    In our church of 200ish we have 10 on the "preaching team", realistically 2-4 of those carry the bulk of the preaching, but there's at least a culture of constantly developing new preachers. Downside with that number is that some of the guys don't get many Sunday opportunities - but then there are many many other contexts in church life to teach/preach. Last 25 sermons at our church are by 12 preachers, the two guys on staff have done 7 and 5 of them, with 10 guys doing the remaining 13....

    At our previous church, of 80-100, there were 4-5 preachers. Seems healthy to me. Seems like a 2 Tim 2:2 model.

    I guess the one man model might be more common, though I don't know if anyone has researched that.


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