“Two weeks ahead I sit down with a text of the passage of the Bible I’m going to preach on and I spend about four hours figuring out what the outline of the text is. I also spend some time figuring out the meaning of the text and sometimes it’s necessary for me to look up in some commentaries verses that may be problematic. I usually come up with an exegetical outline of the passage itself. I then writes this up and send it to my musicians so they can be preparing the music for worship, and so they can get my outline in the bulletin. I also send my outline to other preachers that I know who will be preaching from the same text.
Then three days before Sunday I sit down with my outline and I seek to turn the Bible study [exegetical work] into a sermon. The Bible study is more abstract – here I’m asking the question “What does the text say?” The sermon I’m asking a question that is more life related “What does this text mean to me?”
So I spend four hours two weeks ahead of time on the text, then another four hours turning it into a life related sermon. And that’s usually on the Friday before the sermon is preached. And then on Saturday I spend another six hours working on the sermon. I’m seeking to make it shorter. It’s always initially too long unless I take the time to make it shorter. In total I spend between 14-16 hours writing the sermon. And then on Sunday I spend all day preaching it because I deliver it four times on a Sunday.
Therefore, I spend approximately 25 hours per week in order to produce one public sermon…before I do anything else in my job as a pastor.
This is a transcript of a 2:02 video from You Tube entitled “Tim Keller on Writing a Sermon” based on his answering the question “What is the process you use when writing a sermon?”
About Dr. Tim Keller: He was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and educated at Bucknell University, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. He was first a pastor in Hopewell, Virginia. In 1989 he started Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan with his wife, Kathy, and their three sons. Today, Redeemer has more than five thousand regular attendees at five services, a host of daughter churches, and is planting churches in large cities throughout the world. He is the author of a study of the Gospel of Mark entitled King’s Cross; The Prodigal God based on Luke 15; Generous Justice; Counterfeit Gods; Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road; The Meaning of Marriage; a wonderful small group study entitled Gospel In Life; and the New York Times bestseller The Reason for God; The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness & the forthcoming Center Church (August 2012). Tim has a passion for Jesus Christ, making the Gospel clear, church planting, and reaching cities for Christ. If you really want to understand the gospel, and how grace applies to all of life I urge you to devour his books and sermons!