Jeffrey Arthurs: How I Preach

February 17th, 2014| Topic: aBeLOG, How I Preach | 4

Jeffrey Arthurs: How I Preach

Jeffrey Arthurs: And this is How I Preach

[Jeff is a good friend, and fellow-homiletician and fellow-member in the Evangelical Homiletics Society. It’s a pleasure to feature him on How I Preach.]

Jeffrey D. Arthurs
Professor of Preaching and Communication
Chair, Division of Practical Theology
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, S. Hamilton, Massachusetts

Current gig (preaching, teaching, etc.) and years at it:
Teaching preaching at Gordon-Conwell for 12 years.
Preaching team of North Shore Community Baptist Church, Beverly, Massachusetts; I preach about seven times a year there.
Lots of pulpit supply, retreats, etc.

Most used English Bible version:
English Standard Version.

Use of Greek and Hebrew (light/moderate/heavy):
Moderate Greek, light Hebrew. (Are you trying to make me feel guilty?)

Current computer(s)/device(s):
PC. Biblesoft’s PC Study Bible software.

Who or what made you want to preach:
Felt a distinct call to preach when I was sixteen. I’ve been on that trajectory ever since. I love the local church, the Bible, leadership, communication, and the arts.

One word that best describes how you prepare to preach:

One word that best describes how you preach:

Who are you most indebted to for making you the preacher you are (besides God)?
My friends and partners in ministry: Paul Nitz and Bill Heck.
In homiletical theory and model: Haddon Robinson.
(I know I should answer Abe Kuruvilla.) [Editor’s note: Yes, you should!]

What tools/aids for sermon prep can’t you live without?
Most of the widely used study tools like commentaries, lexicons, and encyclopedias.

What does your workspace look like when you are prepping?
At my desk, in my office at Gordon-Conwell Seminary. Computer before me, books surrounding me, yellow legal pad at hand.

Illustrations: Where do you go for them and how do you store them?
I used to store them but grew weary in well doing. I usually do not have trouble thinking of support material because I read widely and start my prep early so that I give my brain enough time to notice helpful illustrations. Also, I prepare new sermons only about once or twice a month, so I don’t feel the grinding pressure to come up with material.

Average numbers of prep hours per sermon:
15–20 hours.

What’s your best time-saving trick?
Software for exegetical work. I like how you can scroll over verses and it looks them up for you. Same for definition and parsing of Greek and Hebrew terms.

What time of the day are you most effective?
I have made it a practice over the years to do nearly all of my professional work (including sermon prep) during regular working hours. I don’t work at night very much although I may read for my profession.

Tell us your sermon-prep routine?
Yellow legal pad—one page per verse. In rough chronological order: I use the old method of inductive Bible study: ask questions of the text; answer the questions using all the exegetical tools that time and expertise permit; synthesize it into an exegetical idea; layout the structure of the passage and the likely structure of the sermon.

After my exegetical study, I move into homiletical preparation: probe the points for audience reactions (things that need to be explained, proved, and/or applied); find support material that speaks to those reactions; wordsmith a homiletical idea; write a thorough outline, practice, trim, trim some more, time myself and trim even more, reminding myself that ‘less is more’ and keeping on trimming.

Throughout the process I am praying at each stage and some time before I preach I consciously pray through APCAT (from John Piper): Acknowledge to God that I cannot do the work of the Holy Spirit in my own strength; Plead with him to do his work; Claim the promise of God that he works through the foolishness of preaching; Act—study the text, analyze the listeners, gather illustrations, etc.; Thank him.

Any props used regularly in sermons? PowerPoint? Handout?
In my home church I use a simple handout. Props used about 10% of the time. Depending on the culture of the church or organization I am preaching at, I often use PowerPoint. Then, I do more than simply list bullet points. I use maps, symbols, pictures, and devices such as arrows to call attention to portions of the text. I am starting to experiment with another presentation software called Prezi.

Who critiques your sermon, besides yourself?
My students, my wife, my peers. This does not happen often, but it happens regularly enough. I know I should get input more often ….

How has your preaching improved over time?
I am less of a man-pleaser as the years roll on. The theological depth of my preaching continues to grow.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
My two greatest strengths: Preparing a complex breakfast for multiple people. (I should have been a short order cook!) Listening to scores of books every year, mostly while I run. I’m also a fast eater. I should enter a contest.

What do you listen to while you work?
The sound of one hand clapping.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

What are you currently reading?
Post Captain by Patrick O’Brian.
Heaven by Randy Alcorn.
Classical Rhetoric by George Kennedy.
Journal of Communication and Religion (the bi-annual publication of the Religious Communication Association).

What’s your sleep routine like?
I like to be in bed by 9:30 where I will read, watch a short portion of a movie with my wife (it takes us weeks to get through a movie!), and/or play Angry Birds. Asleep by 10:30 if possible.

What do you wish you had learned when you were in seminary?
Church history; how to counsel; how to lead.

Exercise routine?
Fanatic. I average a workout about 6× a week. In order of frequency: running, swimming, disc golf (running), lifting weights, tennis, biking, hiking.

Spiritual disciplines?
Prayer every day, but not currently on a set pattern; reading the OT in one year; theological reading; preparation of sermons is a very edifying experience for me; small group prayer and Bible study; accountability group of faculty peers; and I plan to return to Scripture memory which has been an important discipline for my family in years past.

Favorite food?
Umm … I don’t know. Large quantities of just about anything. Maybe dark chocolate or salmon?

What you do when you aren’t involved in preaching-related activities?
Exercise, spend time with my wife, heavy involvement in church leadership (i.e., meetings …).

Fill in the blank. I’d love to see _____ answer these same questions.
C. S. Lewis.
Abe Kuruvilla. (Fair is fair.)

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Repent of your sins and place your faith in Jesus!
Stay out of debt!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
No! This is more than enough!

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


  1. Jesse Northcutt March 13, 2014 at 8:33 am

    Yes, keep these interviews coming. I can see some common themes that can be helpful. One idea that I relate to from this interview is the work that God does in our own hearts and lives as we prepare to preach.

  2. Jarod Walston February 26, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    Please keep these interviews coming! I love to read what other preachers’ experiences are like and what they are doing to grow as preachers. By the way, I’m thoroughly enjoying your theological commentary on Mark! I had just started preaching through Mark at our church when I found out that you had a commentary on it. I ordered it right away. I’ll have to grab a copy of your commentary on Genesis when it comes out. I really appreciate what you’re contributing to aid the preaching world.

    • Abe Kuruvilla February 26, 2014 at 3:18 pm


      Thanks for the encouragement. I’ll do my best to produce more interviews!

      Glad you are enjoying Mark. Genesis should be available for order in a month or so. You’ll see it up on this website.



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