Timothy Warren: How I Preach
Timothy Warren: And this is How I Preach …
[I am thrilled to present a new series of occasional (once a month?) interviews of those who are considered the movers and shakers in homiletics. How I Preach will feature their answers to questions on a variety of topics, particularly their views and habits of preaching. These answers that should be interesting to all preachers, novices and experts. So here we go with the first installment, and I am proud to present a dear friend, once my teacher, then my colleague, and now my neighbor, Timothy Warren.]
Timothy S. Warren
Senior Professor of Pastoral Ministries
Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas
Current gigs (preaching, teaching, etc.) and years at it:
Teaching preaching at Dallas Seminary, since 1984.
Friday morning Men’s Bible Study at the Cooper Aerobic Center in Dallas, Texas, since 1985.
Weekly Sunday School class at Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, Texas, since 1990.
Preaching at Lake Pointe’s Classic Worship Service three to five times a year, since 2006.
Other occasional events and locations: retreats, Dallas Seminary Chapels, etc.
Most used English Bible version:
New American Standard Updated.
Use of Greek and Hebrew (light/moderate/heavy):
Moderate to heavy, along with an interlinear text.
Mac. And for software, Accordance, and just recently, Logos Platinum.
Who or what made you want to preach:
I was especially influenced by some of the preaching I heard at the Gull Lake Bible and Missionary Conference during the 1950s and 1960s. Seeing the lostness of my speech students at Bowling Green State University (1969–70), and my fellow troops in the Army (1970–72), I sensed that, perhaps, I might learn to preach and teach preaching. That’s when I headed to seminary (DTS).
One word that best describes how you prepare to preach:
One word that best describes how you preach:
Dependently. (I know how much help I need.)
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
Introvert, no question about it. If I had not felt divinely compelled, I would never have preached in the first place. I would be up north in Michigan somewhere doing something else. I’m not sure what, but it wouldn’t be before crowds of people.
Who are you most indebted to for making you the preacher you are (besides God)?
John Reed (my college mentor), Haddon Robinson (my seminary advisor), James Golden (my PhD advisor at Ohio State University), John Miller (my cousin who has supported and encouraged me all my life), the congregation at Grace Bible Church in Canal Winchester, Ohio, my students from whom I have learned so much over the years, and Beverlee (my insightful, patient, and forgiving wife).
What does your workspace look like when you are prepping:
I usually sit in a recliner or sofa with my computer in my lap and my books on either side.
What time of the day are you most effective?
Not early in the morning! Not after about eight in the evening. Probably late morning and late afternoon.
What’s your sleep routine like?
Since a bout with Guillian-Barré Syndrome in 1988 I have not slept well. So, I hope to be in bed between 9:00-10:00 pm and get enough sleep until about 7:00 am so that I can survive the day.
What’s your best time-saving trick?
I take no pride in doing more work than I need to. And I have to credit my Mac: Apple has changed my life.
What do you listen to while you work?
I pretty much shut out all sound and noise.
Illustrations—where do you go for them and how do you store them?
I have several books of illustrations. I use preachingtoday.com’s nicely indexed file, and I often simply Google what I’m looking for.
Tell us your sermon-prep routine?
Prayer all the way, but the rest roughly in this order: choosing the text/topic, exegetical study, theological study, audience analysis, coming up with a homiletical proposition, determining sermon structure, developing it with support material, planning a conclusion and an introduction, manuscripting the entire sermon, and practicing delivery. I preach the sermon with prayer, but without notes. I must confess that under the influence of my friend and colleague, Abe Kuruvilla, I am moving toward a more “theological exegesis,” combining the exegetical and theological stages.
Average numbers of prep hours per sermon:
10–15 hours from start to finish. I’m a slow worker, but persistent, most of the time.
Any props used regularly in sermons? Slides? Handouts?
Never handouts. Seldom props. Once in a while I will put up an image or a brief clip on Powerpoint.
Use of notes (no/some/extensive)?
No notes for at least two reasons: 1) It forces me to prepare a more focused and clearly stated outline/map/flow of my message and 2) It enhances my ability to connect with my audience more intimately as an emotional rapport is maintained through constant eye contact.
Who critiques your sermon, besides yourself?
My very insightful wife. Sometimes my colleagues. Used to be my kids (“Dad, guess how many times you said, ‘Um,’ today?” Pause. “I stopped counting after thirty-eight.”). And, sometimes my students will look at a video and we will critique a sermon. During my pastoring years, I would host a discussion of the sermon for about an hour, immediately after I had preached.
How has your preaching improved over time?
I hope I have learned to slow down a little and preach more simply. I no longer try to say everything in a single sermon.
What are you currently reading?
Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander by Phil Robertson.
Churchill in America by Martin Gilbert.
Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNT, and the Lost Story of 1970 by David Browne.
The Best Method of Preaching: The Use of Theoretical-Practical Theology by Petrus van Mastricht.
The Homiletical Beat: Why all Sermons are Narrative by Eugene Lowry.
What do you wish you had learned when you were in seminary?
I’m satisfied with what I learned in seminary. Of course, I could have learned a lot more facts, but I got what I needed to continue the practice of ministry. It’s like basic training in the Army—you’re given the “tools”: I learned a few skills, like how to shoot an M-16. But actually learning to be a soldier would have taken a few months or years on the field of battle. Similarly, I got the tools in seminary to learn to pastor and preach. I am thankful.
I walk 2–4 miles 2–3 times a week. I try to get to my gentle yoga class to stretch about three times a week. That’s about it these days.
Prayer, several times a day over many topics. Bible study, almost every day. I do my best to devotionalize my ministry preparation. Worship, at least weekly. I will often listen to worship music, especially when driving. I also try to obey and serve.
What you do when you aren’t involved in preaching-related activities?
Hang out with my family. I could spend every hour of every day with my wife. And all my children and grandchildren live nearby. Nothing beats family time.
Fill in the blank. “I’d love to see ________ answer these same questions.”
Rob Lowe. I read his Stories I only Tell my Friends this summer and felt such a compassion for him. What a wonderful turn of events if he came to faith and was able to address this set of questions. Mine has been a blessed life and I wish Rob Lowe and a host of others could experience God’s grace as I have.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t offer unsolicited advice.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Nope. Enough said already.
[For the rest of this series, How I Preach, see here.]