Bryan Chapell: How I Preach

January 15th, 2015| Topic: aBeLOG, How I Preach | 2

Bryan Chapell: How I Preach

Bryan Chapell: And this is How I Preach

[Few preachers have been in the forefront of homiletics as the thought-leader of the field featured in this post—Bryan Chapell. His books, blogs, sermons, and talks have all had a great influence on preaching and how preaching is thought of and taught. We shared a speaking engagement together at the Evangelical Homiletics Society’s Annual Meeting recently, and, of course, I tried to snag him in for How I Preach. Despite his busy schedule, Bryan was gracious enough to consent, so here’s Bryan ….]

Bryan Chapell
Senior Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA), Peoria, Illinois

Current gig (preaching, teaching, etc.) and years at it:
20 years as President and Chancellor of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.
About 2 years ago, I took on the senior pastorate at Grace Presbyterian Church, Peoria, Illinois.

Who or what made you want to preach:
Doing it.
As a seminarian who was on the road to law school, after a year of Bible study, I was invited to preach on weekends in a little country church. I loved it.
Did another two years of seminary, and have loved preaching ever since.

Who are you most indebted to for making you the preacher you are (besides God)?
My father, a lay preacher, who loved to tell stories.
And John Sanderson, my senior-year-of-seminary preaching professor, who cared enough about me to tell me that he didn’t hear the gospel in my sermons, and made me wonder how to proclaim the grace of God from all of Scripture.

Most used English Bible version:
English Standard Version.

Use of Greek and Hebrew (light/moderate/heavy):
Moderate for Greek.
Light for Hebrew.

Software that you use for preaching prep?

One word that best describes how you prepare to preach:

One word that best describes how you preach:

What tools/aids for sermon prep can’t you live without?
Study Bibles.
Precept-Austin website.

What does your workspace look like when you are prepping?
Four study Bibles open (on a Jefferson Stand).
One note-book open for taking exegetical notes from commentaries.
Another for referencing my homiletical outline.
Paper in front of me on the desk for writing out the sermon in an extended outline form.

Illustrations: Where do you go for them and how do you store them?
Books, articles, magazines, and my wallet notebook that I always keep with me for recording everyday experiences.
I have a text and a topic file for illustrations in my office.
As well, a stack of recently found illustrations on my desk.

Tell us your sermon-prep routine.
Series topics and texts predetermined for each half-year.
Rough outline of the text on Tuesday.
All day Thursday to study and write.
Parts of Saturday to hone and refresh the message.

Average numbers of prep hours per sermon?
8 hours.

What’s your best time-saving trick?
A pre-sermon file: a file for each of the next month’s sermons into which I throw illustrations and ideas in the weeks prior to that sermon’s actual preparation.

What time of the day are you most effective?

Any props used regularly in sermons? PowerPoint? Handout?
I occasionally use them, but don’t want my listeners or myself to be distracted.
Research well shows that these may be good for attention and information (e.g. handouts, PowerPoint, movie clips), but they hamper persuasion—which is always most affected by “a good man, speaking well,” i.e., the speaker’s ethos.

No notes/some notes/extensive notes (manuscript)?
Some notes.

How has your preaching improved over time?
I am willing to be more free these days, by being well prepared, but willing to adjust to the dynamics of listeners, the moment, and the Spirit.

What do you listen to while you work?
Light piano music.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
An introvert.

Exercise routine? Sleep routine?
Extended daily speed walks.
Sleep time: 10:30 pm–6:00 am.

Spiritual disciplines?
I listen to audio Scripture while walking, and then pray.
Prayer, privately and with family, at various times during the day.

What you do when you aren’t involved in preaching-related activities?

[For the archives of this series, How I Preach, see here.]


  1. Joshua Brooks February 13, 2015 at 10:07 am

    Thanks for sharing this interview. I heard Bryan Chapell preach at a Gospel Coalition conference in Chicago. He preached an effective sermon on 2 Tim 3:16. I’ve admired him for many years and purchased Christ-Centered Preaching.

    I resonate with this article in several ways. One, I want to utilize the Precept-Austin website more.Two, I need to obtain and organize my illustrations better. Three, I want to be relaxed about delivery and try to persuade as a “good man, speaking well.”

    Best wishes!


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