How to Preach Like Mark Driscoll Without Sounding Like Him

I hope that you’re taking advantage of today’s media in order to improve your preaching. It used to be that if you wanted to be exposed to a great preacher, all you could do was read their sermons. Now we can listen to them on our iPods and watch them online.

In this post, we’ll look at a few things that Mark Driscoll does well that we can learn from.

But first, the danger. When you try to learn from another preacher, you run the risk of sounding like them.

And everyone in your church knows it, because they listen to the good preachers, too. The last thing I want is for my hearers to think, “Wow, Eric’s been listening to (enter TGC conference speaker here) this week.”

The goal is to learn from good preachers without sounding like them.

Don’t be a fan-boy

When you start listening to other people, the thing that will stop you from being yourself is the fan-boy syndrome. You get infatuated with the presentation, and in so doing, you take the form, but not the substance. You start copying phrases, tone, and mannerisms rather than making use of similar homiletical moves.

Matt Chandler nailed this point in this clip from an Acts 29 Boot Camp.

Very funny. Very true.

Don’t focus on the externals. That’s like buying a fake Rolex off the street in New York City. If you want to preach a sermon that doesn’t waste a single second, you have to learn how to assemble it. You must go beneath the surface of personality and get to what is happening in the sermon homiletically.

If you aren’t aggressive, don’t try to be aggressive. Don’t try to be funny if you aren’t. Definitely don’t start preaching for an hour and fifteen minutes if your church service only gives you thirty.

But there are some things Driscoll does in his sermons that anyone can apply, no matter what their personality is like.

What to take from Driscoll and apply in your preaching

There’s a lot that Driscoll does well, but I picked these three because I think they solve common pitfalls for preachers.

1. Use as specific examples as possible in your application. Most application I hear is vague and abstract. Which means that it isn’t actually application. You have to move from general principles to specific practice. Part of why Driscoll’s sermons are so long is because he gives so many examples of how to live out what the Bible teaches. He doesn’t just tell men to honor their wives, he tells them  how to honor their wives.

2. Take advantage of topical opportunities through expositional preaching. Driscoll preaches almost exclusively through books of the Bible. But he doesn’t fail to address the important topics of the day. He accomplishes this by capitalizing on the opportunities afforded him in each passage throughout the book. For example, he used Luke 1:41 – where John lept in Elizabeth’s womb – to preach against abortion.

Before you decide to preach topical sermons so that you can hit all your soap boxes, consider an expository preaching approach. Then, as Scripture brings those issues up, address each one. This places you and the people under God’s authority, rather than yours.

3. Contextualize to your audience. Driscoll knows that thousands of people listen to him on the web. But you know who he talks to? The person in Seattle. Don’t preach to the people who hear you online, whether they be possible new members or future search committees. Preach to your people.

Do it your way

These three tips aren’t personality driven. They’re homiletically driven. They are things every good preacher should be doing. As you start to deliver your sermons in these new ways, your people aren’t going to say, “Wow, he’s been listening to a lot of Driscoll this week.”

They’ll say, “Wow, that was really helpful.”


  1. Why would I want to emulate Mark Driscoll? He is simply another version of the YRR group.

    • Eric McKiddie says:

      Hi, Greg, and thanks for commenting!

      The point of this article was that we should learn from other preachers, but not emulate them. So I think we agree on that point.

      As for your apparent negative opinion for those who would identify themselves as young, restless, and reformed, I hope that you can take the good and reject the not-so-good. I addressed that issue in my post “A Not-Famous Pastor’s Take on the Evangelical Hollywood”.

  2. The real question should be: Why would I read a post entitled “How to Preach Like Mark Driscoll Without Sounding Like Him” if I do not like Mark Driscoll at all because he is simply another version of the YRR group?
    Eric, nice work on the gracious response.

  3. Kevin,

    Perhaps because comments are meant to be edifying, as iron sharpening iron. That doesn’t mean you only read the posts you agree with, especially when these posts are represented by such trustworthy sources as The Gospel Coalition (solid in very many respects).

    I agree with Greg about not wanting to emulate Mark Driscoll, however. When I read in his “Confessions” book about his past testimony, being massaged in a foreign country, commenting she was, “hot–like hell”, I’m not impressed. When I see his TV interview with a liberal on TV, inviting the liberal to church while making sexual jokes with the audience (he told the joke on air about one in his congregation thinking that “whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” in Ecclesiastes referred to masturbation; everyone laughed)… sexual jokes with Scripture, I’m no impressed at all.

    So I understand the post is about emulating pastors, and I understand The Gospel Coalition is probably close to Mark Driscoll. I’m not, and I don’t think he was the best to use in the example.

    I disagree with contextualizing as well. I agree that as a pastor you should know your people, your flock, as a shepherd with his sheep. But you don’t conform your message for them; your message is from God’s Word, as always, and it conforms the audience to your preaching. Somewhere along the way, it seems that got mixed up.

    But, still good thoughts. Thanks for the post.

  4. I was actually being a bit snarky there. I have no desire whatsoever to emulate Driscoll. In fact, me thinks I mights slap myself if I ever noticed that as a goal. I have concerns about much of what he does BUT I have also been edified by his preaching and encouraged by how the Lord is working in the Upper Left. I am fine with and agree Gregs first sentence. It was his second that I found peculiar. It really seemed to be saying that I don’t like Driscoll because I don’t like the YRR movement. That’s fine if he feels that way but pointless to come on here to let us know that he doesn’t like many of us.

    It seems to me that you are putting a slightly different definition to the word contextualization than how Eric used it. I wonder if you mean that you don’t ever make your preaching as practical to them as possible? That seems to be all that Eric is saying. Know your people; their problems and struggles for God’s Word is applicable to those problems. This gospel isn’t just some up in the air theory. It is into the depths of our hearts and even under our nails. I don’t think that is conforming the message in a negative way as much as it is actually teaching the Bible to them. Thus the word to preach to the people God has given you: a good and needed encouragemtn.

  5. Eric McKiddie says:

    Good discussion on contextualization, fellas. It’s obvious that we should not conform Scripture to our people, but rather it should conform and transform us into the image of Christ.

    But conformity and contextualizing are different things. We can’t escape contextualization. Our Bibles are in English. Jesus became human. In order for us to communicate, we have to consider, and be sensitive to, what our audience can understand.

    So if someone says, “I don’t contextualize to my audience” that person commits the sin of both lying and pride. Lying, because if you use language, you are contextualizing. Pride, because you are claiming that you don’t have to do something that God did have to do (through the Word, both incarnate and inscripturated).

    We all have sinned in our effort to contextualize, either by overdoing it, or under doing it. Only Jesus did that without sinning. So to point out that someone did it badly a couple times is no argument against the necessity of contextualizing to our audience, but only for our need of grace and forgiveness as we do so.

  6. Good article. Even if I don’t desire to be like Driscoll, the truth is that his preaching draws a crowd. Its good to learn from all good preachers, whether or not you believe in everything they say. My wife doesn’t even agree with everything I say.