Stephen Davey: How I Preach

October 17th, 2014| Topic: aBeLOG, How I Preach | 2

Stephen Davey: How I Preach

Stephen Davey: And this is How I Preach

[It’s an honor to have Stephen Davey, Senior Pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Cary, North Carolina, featured on How I Preach. We have shared pulpits at conferences and at his church and I’ve admired Stephen for a style of preaching that is engaging, down to earth, relevant, and, importantly, textually sound. You can also hear him on his radio program, Wisdom for the Heart, heard around the world in over 300 radio stations. Here’s Stephen ….]

Stephen Davey
Senior Pastor, Colonial Baptist Church, Cary, North Carolina
Bible Teacher, Wisdom for the Heart
President, Shepherds Theological Seminary, Cary, North Carolina

Current gig (preaching, teaching, etc.) and years at it:
Preaching at Colonial Baptist Church since its inception: 29 years (three morning services; and a different evening service).
Radio broadcasts on Wisdom for the Heart: over 10 years.

Who or what made you want to preach:
My Sunday school teacher asked me to teach one Sunday morning when I was in the 12th grade.
Telling the students something about the Bible they didn’t know – or knew incorrectly – was incredibly fulfilling.
That same year our small church typically asked a teenager to preach during a Sunday evening service (annual tradition called “Youth Night”). I was asked to preach that year. While finding the experience a rather terrifying twenty minutes, I still sensed afterward deep fulfillment in being able to communicate God’s truth to open hearts.

Who are you most indebted to for making you the preacher you are (besides God)?
Howard Hendricks and John MacArthur.
Models blending imagination and exposition.

Most used English Bible version:
New American Standard for the past two decades.
Just now switching to the English Standard Version.

Use of Greek and Hebrew (light/moderate/heavy):
Greek—moderate to heavy; Hebrew—light.

Software that you use for preaching prep?

One word that best describes how you prepare to preach:
Read. Read. Read.

One word that best describes how you preach:

What tools/aids for sermon prep can’t you live without?
For New Testament sermon prep: Fritz Rienecker and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament.
Beyond every commentary I can afford, and along with language studies, I chase down ideas via the internet.

What does your workspace look like when you are prepping?
A long counter/desk made of marble, cut from South America that still has green foliage embedded. It’s a remnant of the flood which serves as a reminder to me that I’m preparing messages for people who will soon face a righteous judgment.

Illustrations: Where do you go for them and how do you store them?
As I read widely—biographies, journals, commentaries—I’m always looking for fresh illustrations or ideas to pursue.
I also study my own life experiences and the life of family members.

Tell us your sermon-prep routine.
My sermons are most often Book studies; the text is simply the next verse.
I read it repeatedly in English.
Then study the primary structure and key words in their original language.
Having determined authorial intent, develop a target/verdict that I want to move toward.
Read every commentary I own on the subject, underlining key thoughts that serve what I believe the author intended.
Spin off and read other passages that relate—and corresponding commentary/language on those passages.
Rough out an outline.
Begin writing.

Average numbers of prep hours per sermon?
Fifteen hours each for morning (three) sermons and the evening (one) sermon: i.e., thirty hours a week.

What’s your best time-saving trick?
Saving thoughts and illustrations that are useful for a later text/sermon.

What time of the day are you most effective?
Mornings especially.
I’ve found that after 7:00 pm I can read, but not write effectively.

Any props used regularly in sermons? Powerpoint? Handout?

No notes/some notes/extensive notes (manuscript)?
Entire manuscript goes with me into the pulpit; by the third service, I have it down pretty well.

Who critiques your sermon, besides yourself?
Everyone! ☺ Actually my wife, Marsha, is my most insightful—and helpful—critic.

How has your preaching improved over time?
I’m willing to talk slower and bring the audience along to think with me. In my earlier years, I felt that pausing was a mortal sin.
I also feel less obligated to end with the customary “three timeless truths,” and simply let the weight of the textual verdict settle on the minds and hearts of the audience.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
I’m not sure . . . obviously it isn’t decisiveness.

What do you listen to while you work?

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
I hate studying—studying for the purpose of learning for myself never excited me.
The fact that the sheep are waiting to be fed makes me persevere through 25–30 hours of solitude.
I often tell my students at Shepherds Seminary that the call to the pastorate is a call to obscurity.

What are you currently reading?
Newest biography on Spurgeon by Tom Nettles: Living by Revealed Truth.
Lincoln biography by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard: Killing Lincoln.

What do you wish you had learned when you were in seminary?
Something about banking/financial systems for churches.

Exercise routine? Sleep routine?
I have an exercise bike in my study that I often lean on while I read standing up.
Sleep patterns change with seasons and the demands of my day; I’d like to get 7–8 hours of sleep a night.

Spiritual disciplines?
Morning Bible reading.
Prayer—most often praying Puritan prayers found in Arthur Bennett’s The Valley of Vision.
A page from Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening.
Perhaps a few pages from a current biography I’m working through.

Favorite food?
Next would be P.F. Chang’s Melon and Shrimp.

What you do when you aren’t involved in preaching-related activities?
Everything I do seems to spin around Shepherds Seminary, Colonial, or Wisdom for the Heart.
Most of my off time is sitting on our back deck in the morning or evening watching birds enjoy a dozen bird feeders, horses grazing nearby—reveling in God’s creative glory.

Fill in the blank. I’d love to see _____ answer these same questions.
Erwin Lutzer, pastor of Moody Church, in Chicago.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My college chancellor: “When you future pastors finish your education, don’t pray that God will give you a pulpit; pray that God will give you a city.”

Anything else you’d like to add?
Not a thing. Thanks for asking, Abe!

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


  1. Ruthie Matthews November 18, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    Abe, I loved reading about Stephen! Our families have been friends for 45 years. I lived with his family when I was in 9th grade. My parents joined Missions to Military when I was little. Stephen’s father started the ministry many years ago. He was also at DTS when Robert was there so we have many connections. I would love to visit his church someday!

    • Abe Kuruvilla November 19, 2014 at 10:03 pm

      I had no idea! And I was there the last week of September (Cary, NC). Well, say “Hi!” to both of them, if you contact them!


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