Robert Smith: How I Preach

August 15th, 2014| Topic: aBeLOG, How I Preach | 4

Robert Smith: How I Preach

Robert Smith: And this is How I Preach

[It is a pleasure to highlight Robert Smith, an acclaimed preacher in evangelicalism today, on How I Preach. We have connected off and on at meetings of the Evangelical Homiletics Society meetings, and I’ve made it a priority to listen to him whenever I get the chance. His wealth of experience brings insights that are heartfelt and stimulating. Here’s Robert ….]

Robert Smith, Jr.
Professor of Divinity and Christian Preaching
Beeson Divinity School
Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama

Current gig (preaching, teaching, etc.) and years at it:
Teaching preaching at Beeson since 1997 (at Southern Baptist Seminary before that).
Preached weekly for from 1976 to 2005 at various churches.
Nowadays, pulpit filling both nationally and internationally, in churches, conventions, conferences, universities, seminaries ….

Most used English Bible version:
New International Version.

Use of Greek and Hebrew (light/moderate/heavy):
Greek moderately. Hebrew lightly.

Who or what made you want to preach:
I accepted my call from God to preach as a 17-year-old after experiencing a holy hunch and an irresistible and irrepressible urge throughout my teenage years. I eventually yielded and preached my first sermon on July 3, 1966 from the text Luke 4:18—“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because He has anointed me to preach the Gospel ….”

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)?
E. L. Alexander who pastored and mentored me during the early years of my preaching ministry. He challenged me to pursue excellence in ministry and to internalize my sermon in delivery.
George Q. Brown who demonstrated before my very eyes what preaching holistically from a whole person (spirit, mind, body and soul) looked like when preaching to whole persons. Through him I learned Philips Brooks’ definition of preaching as “truth mediated through personality.”
James Earl Massey, has been the most formative presence in recent season of my life. He has stretched me in the area of theology thoroughness and homiletical clarity.

What tools/aids for sermon prep can’t you live without?
Beyond the Bible …
Dr. James Earl Massey’s books, The Responsible Pulpit and The Burdensome Joy of Preaching.
Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Preaching.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Preaching and Preachers.
Helmut Thielicke’s The Trouble with the Church.

Illustrations: Where do you go for them and how do you store them?
I look for illustrations in the Bible and my contemporary surroundings.
I store them in a file system for future use.

What’s your best time-saving trick?
I prepare to preach by using bite-sized pieces of available time. In other words, I am always in the process of preparation and use available moments to prepare (i.e. while walking on a treadmill, sitting in a barber shop, or flying on a plane) as well as larger chunks of time that can be scheduled during the week.

No notes/some notes/extensive notes (manuscript)?
I preach notelessly from a manuscript that has been internalized.

What do you listen to while you work?
I generally like the ambiance in which I am preparing to be one of quietude.
Sometimes I like to listen to Christian instrumental music.

What are you currently reading?
My primary reading text is Scripture.
Currently I am reviewing the works of the great German theologian/preacher Helmut Thielicke.

Exercise routine? Sleep routine?
I try to rise early and walk on the treadmill. This serves as a platform for study, prayer and physical exercise.
I also try to retire early for the evening in order to get sufficient rest.

What do you wish you had learned when you were in seminary?
I wish I had expended even more time in pursuing the profound depths of theology. It has served as a reservoir out of which my preaching is drawn.

Spiritual disciplines?
Prayer. Scripture reading. Solitude.

Favorite food?
Vegetables. Chicken.

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

Fill in the blank. I’d love to see _____ answer these same questions.
James Earl Massey.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Never to preach above my experience.

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


  1. Paul Pettit September 3, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Another great article, Abe. I like how Smith says he internalizes his manuscript…

  2. Scott Charlton August 17, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    I like the comment “never to preach above my experience”. I remember a Spurgeon quote (paraphase) “You can transmit information when you read about it, but you can change lives when you have lived it.”

    Thank you, Dr Kuruvilla. I heard you at Stonebriar several Sundays ago. A continuing message on Marks’ women. Thank you again for the correct use of God given talents.


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