David Allen: How I Preach

September 15th, 2014| Topic: aBeLOG, How I Preach | 2

David Allen: How I Preach

David Allen: And this is How I Preach …

[I’m delighted to present David Allen, Dean of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, at Ft. Worth, next door to Dallas. A good thinker of preaching, and a fellow-member of the Evangelical Homiletics Society, his zeal for preaching and for training the next generation of preachers is well acclaimed and appreciated. Here’s David ….]

David L. Allen
Dean and Professor of Preaching
Director of the Southwestern Center for Expository Preaching
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Fort Worth, Texas

Current gig (preaching, teaching, etc.) and years at it:
Dean at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.
Interim pastor of Lakeland Baptist Church, Lewisville, Texas.
In the past, senior pastor, other interim pastorates, for three plus decades.
Preaching workshops, church Bible conferences, and pastors conferences, all over.
I started preaching when God called me at the age of 16.

Who or what made you want to preach?
From the human perspective, that would have to be Jerry Vines, my pastor when I was a teenager. His consistent expository preaching, creatively done, impacted my life.

Who are you most indebted to for making you the preacher you are (besides God)?
Jerry Vines. I was called to preach in 1973 under Vines’ ministry in Rome, Georgia.
Paige Patterson. He was the president of Criswell College, Dallas, Texas, when I arrived there as a freshman in 1975. His own theology and practice of preaching has influenced me greatly.

Most used English Bible version?
New American Standard Bible.
Holman Christian Standard Bible.

Use of Greek and Hebrew (light/moderate/heavy)?
I use both heavily in preparation to preach, and lightly in the actual sermon.

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?
Hebrew/Greek Bible.
Hebrew/Greek lexicons, dictionaries, and grammar.
Evangelical Parallel New Testament (Oxford).
At least three exegetical commentaries, and three expository commentaries.
English Dictionary (Oxford).
Hodges Harbrace College Handbook on English Grammar and Composition.

What does your workspace look like when you are prepping?

Illustrations: Where do you go for them and how do you store them?
I go everywhere.
I store them digitally by topic since any given illustration might fit any number of texts.

Tell us your sermon-prep routine.
I use a 12-step method I’ve outlined in “Preparing a Text-Driven Sermon” in Text-Driven Preaching: God’s Word at the heart of Every Sermon.
1. Begin at the paragraph level and move to the sentence, clause, phrase, and word level. I determine paragraph boundary, genre, and analyze how the paragraph is connected with the previous and following paragraph.
2. Identify the Greek/Hebrew sentences and clauses within the paragraph. I identify, chart, and parse all verbs and verbals. I determine the semantic structure of the sentences and clauses to one another.
3. Identify and analyze all phrases, especially key prepositional phrases.
4. Conduct word studies of key words.
5. Do comparative translation work.
6. Consult commentaries.
7. Diagram the paragraph (syntactical or block diagram)
8. Develop an exegetical outline.
9. Develop a communication outline.
10. Write the sermon body (not complete manuscript).
11. Write the introduction and conclusion.
12. Think through delivery issues.

Average numbers of prep hours per sermon?
Ideally 15 to 20 hours.

What’s your best time-saving trick?
Work from the higher level of discourse structure to the lower level.
See the big picture before the details.

What time of the day are you most effective?
Morning, 8:00–11:00 am.
Evening, 8:00–11:00 pm.

Any props used regularly in sermons? Powerpoint? Handout?
Not usually.
(I’m not opposed to props, but if you can’t preach without them, you’ll never be able to preach with them.)

No notes/some notes/extensive notes (manuscript)?
No notes, other than what can be written in the margin of my Bible.

Who critiques your sermon, besides yourself?
Normally my wife.

How has your preaching improved over time?
I have become more natural in delivery.
I have eliminated the use of detailed outlines.
I have generally moved away from alliteration.
My sermon outline has as many main points as the text has.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
Probably nothing!

What do you listen to while you work?
Great Western-movie theme songs.
Orchestral and/or piano hymns.
Online sermons.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
A blend of the two.

What are you currently reading?
James M. Garretson, Princeton and Preaching: Archibald Alexander and the Christian Ministry.
Ian Stackhouse and Oliver Crisp (editors), Text Message: The Centrality of Scripture in Preaching.
Cornelius Plantinga, Reading for Preaching: the Preacher in Conversation with Storytellers, Biographers, Poets.
Et cetera.

Exercise routine? Sleep routine?
Exercise routine: sporadic.
Sleep routine: seven hours a night.

Spiritual disciplines?
Prayer and being in Scripture daily.

Favorite food?
Two eggs fried medium well, bacon thin sliced and crisp, wheat toast buttered or English muffin buttered, homemade biscuits and gravy.
Or, snow crab legs.
Or, ribeye steak.
All three together would be ideal!

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

Fill in the blank. I’d love to see _____ answer these same questions.
My colleague, Steven W. Smith, Vice President for Student Services and Professor of Preaching.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Stay humble and stay faithful and God will use you.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Don’t strive to become known as a great preacher; strive to do great preaching.

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


  1. Michael Karpf September 16, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    I have Text Driven Preaching. It’s excellent! As I was reading this post, I was wondering if this is the same person.
    I really appreciate your sharing “How I Preach” from different preachers. Please keep them coming!


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