Timothy Warren: How I Preach

January 14th, 2014| Topic: aBeLOG, How I Preach | 26

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.

Current computer(s)/device(s):
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.

Exercise regimen?
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.

Spiritual disciplines?
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.

Favorite food?

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


  1. Mitch Friedman July 31, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    So pumped to read this interview with Timothy. He and Dr. Reed are both mentors and heroes to me. They allowed me (closely monitored!) to teach preaching as an adjunct in 98′ and ’99. I admire Timothy for his character and his commitment to the core principles of exposition. You rock!

    Thanks again.

    P.S. Abe, I could use some counsel from a dermatologist occasionally… 😉

    • Abe Kuruvilla July 31, 2014 at 6:55 pm

      Thanks, Mitch. Keep coming back for more words of wisdom from preachers!

      And sure, skin, hair, and nails is my domain!

  2. Jesse Northcutt February 27, 2014 at 4:50 am

    This was a very helpful and encouraging interview. I found it good to learn more about Timothy Warren since I have heard of him but have never met him. I like the way you asked him questions over a broad range of subjects. I’m very pleased also to hear the comments he made about his family! It’s also helpful to hear a different perspective and to learn more about how he prepares for preaching.

  3. Luc Ladry February 9, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    On target! I have enjoyed the interview. I’ve learned to appreciate brother Warren’s preaching on Chapel On Line. It’s most useful to portray men of God preparing to communicate God’s Word. I have also love the line «Privilege The Text». I definitely want to stay in touch with DTS. I retire in three years from high school teaching and then want to go for DMin, God willing.
    Brother in Christ,
    Luc Ladry, ThM, DTS 1992, Québec, French Canada.

  4. Keith Johnson February 4, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    Dr. Kuruvilla,

    What a helpful idea. As a DTS grad, Dr. Warren gave me the tools and the encouragement to preach. Since graduating I use those tools to become a preacher every week. Interviews like this help me to hone my skills.

  5. King-Tai Tie February 3, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    Thanks for the interview. Look forward to more coming.
    I must thank Dr Warren for his several articles on Topical expository preaching which I continue to use in my homiletic course in MTS, Sibu, Malaysia.

    Dr Abe, I am interested in what Dr Warren mentioned about your influence upon him in “theological exegesis.”

    • Abe Kuruvilla February 3, 2014 at 8:37 pm

      Thanks, Dr. Tie. Yes, we are all blessed by Dr. Warren.

      Yes, he was kind to mention my name. I think my book Privilege the Text! is probably the best statement of my hermeneutic, along with my occasional posts under “aBeLOG,” here on HOMILETIX.


  6. Miguel Paredes February 3, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Dr. Warren was my favorite professor at DTS. Challenged and encouraged me to my core. Thanks for the interview.

  7. Jarod Walston February 3, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Dr. Kuruvilla, thanks for doing this series. Being new to the pastoral ministry, it helps me to understand veteran preachers, like Dr. Warren, and their experiences as preachers. Great questions. Reading Dr. Warren’s answers actually related to me on a lot of levels. Look forward to reading more interviews from this series. By the way, Dr. Kuruvilla, I would have to agree with Dr. Warren that the faculty at DTS did a wonderful job in training me as a student of God’s Word, as a preacher, and as a pastor. Thoroughly enjoyed my time studying under you in my third semester of preaching.

  8. Tom Horn February 3, 2014 at 9:44 am

    I highly value such sharing of distilled life experience. Thanks for offering this resource.

  9. Sukhwant Bhatia February 3, 2014 at 9:33 am

    Enjoyed the interview, thanks.

  10. John Gibson January 16, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    Very helpful and encouraging

  11. Luke January 15, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    What a great post. Looking forward to this series!

  12. Paul January 15, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Thanks for this interview, Abe. Timothy Warren is my mentor. Looking forward to seeing more “preaching greats” in this series.

  13. Ed Cole January 15, 2014 at 4:59 am

    I enjoyed the interview, Abe. Thanks


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