Duane Litfin: How I Preach

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

Duane Litfin: How I Preach

Duane Litfin: And this is How I Preach

[Author, pastor, professor, and seminary president—he was the seventh president of Wheaton College—Duane is an authority on all matters related to preaching. He taught at Dallas Seminary for several years, and currently serves on the Seminary Board; so that makes him one of my bosses! With a couple of doctoral degrees in the rhetorical aspects of preaching, Duane’s thinking on homiletics needs to be tapped into by every preacher. I am grateful for his willingness to undertake this interview on How I Preach. Here is Duane Litfin ….]

A. Duane Litfin
Board of Regents

Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas
President Emeritus
Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois

Current gig (preaching, teaching, etc.) and years at it:
Retired from the college presidency in 2010 (after 17 years there) in order to write.
Now I’m actively engaged in an itinerant preaching and teaching ministry.

Who or what made you want to preach:
Haddon Robinson, my professor and then colleague and fellow faculty member at Dallas Seminary, probably had the greatest influence on my call to preaching.

Most used English Bible version:
Today I typically use the English Standard Version or, on occasion, the earlier New International Version.
(I like the literalness of the New American Standard Bible for exposition, but few in the pews are actually using it these days.)

Use of Greek and Hebrew (light/moderate/heavy)?
I use the Greek heavily when appropriate; my Hebrew is rustier.

What tools/aids for sermon prep can’t you live without?
Laptop, tablet and smart phone, none of it Apple.
(I was an early enlister in the digital revolution and never liked Apple’s proprietary approach.)

One word that best describes how you prepare to preach:

One word that best describes how you preach:

What does your workspace look like when you are prepping?
Fairly neat, orderly.

What tools/aids for sermon prep can’t you live without?
Trusted commentaries, Bible Gateway.

Illustrations: Where do you go for them and how do you store them?
My life and experience for the most part.
I sometimes find them on the internet or in books of illustrations.

Tell us your sermon-prep routine.
Wrestling with the text (exegetical details, controlling idea, outline) and its contemporary relevance.
Testing and enriching what I have found by looking at the commentaries.
Structuring the message itself.
Fleshing out the message into a finished product.

Average numbers of prep hours per sermon?
Hard to come up with an average; depends on the passage, the message, the audience.

What’s your best time-saving trick?
Avoid unprofitable rabbit trails (which, of course, requires recognizing which are which).

What time of the day are you most effective?

Any props used regularly in sermons? PowerPoint? Handout?
None used regularly.

No notes/some notes/extensive notes (manuscript)?
Minimal notes, but vivid markings of the text.

Who critiques your sermons, beside yourself?
These days, mainly my wife.

How has your preaching improved over time?
I hope it has; I’ve been doing it for a long time.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
Can’t think of anything.

What do you listen to while you work?

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
A mix, but I appreciate solitude these days more than ever.

What are you currently reading?
Whatever I’m writing on at the moment.
I read extensively what others have said or are saying about the subject as a way of testing my own work.
[Editor’s note: Here’s Duane’s latest production: Paul’s Theology of Preaching: The Apostle’s Challenge to the Art of Persuasion in Ancient Corinth.]

What do you wish you had learned when you were in seminary?
I think I learned almost all of what a seminary program could teach me.
The other things have to be learned elsewhere and should not be expected from an academic setting.

Exercise routine? Sleep routine?
Yes to both. I keep them as regular as possible. At least that works for me.

Spiritual disciplines?
The obvious ones: time with the Lord in Scripture and prayer.

Favorite food?
I like a wide range of food, but try not to get too excited about any of it.
In the end I eat to fuel the things that matter most to me.

What you do when you aren’t involved in preaching-related activities?
Writing, friends, conversation, reading, golf.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
The wisdom of this triplet:

I slept and dreamt life is joy.
I woke and learned that life is duty.
I did my duty and discovered joy.”

Fill in the blank. I’d love to see ________ answer these same questions.
Abe Kuruvilla.
[Editor’s note: One of these days ….]

Anything else you’d like to add?
Keep up the good work!

[For the rest of this series, How I Preach (several months’ worth) see here.]


  1. GLENN DORSCHLER June 15, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    Thank you for Homiletix. This was the first issue I have received.
    –Glenn Dorschler (B.A. Wheaton, 1976; ThM Dallas,1980)


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