Book Review -- Preaching, The Art of Narrative Exposition -- Calvin Miller

From the previous post, you are probably aware that I am encouraging some summer reading among our church youth group who call themselves “Power Supply.” My son, Justin, has already finished, In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick. It was such a page turner that he could hardly put it down until he had finished it. I am in hopes that a lot of others are reading too!

I also am reading some good stuff too. I have recently finished Lance Armstrong’s Private War which traces his 2004 Tour de France victory and it was quite interesting. Some of the book spent time describing his teammates and what they specifically were responsible for when they were riding in the peleton with Lance.

The reason that I read about LA was it fit into the category of what I call “mindless” reading. The reason that I read “mindless” books is that they really help me to disconnect with a lot of the day to day pressures that we are faced with. When I say that a book is “mindless,” I do not mean that it does not have value, I mean that it is a book that does not require me to think and weigh out certain issues and nuances that the book may present. I do a whole lot of reading that requires much thought and consideration. These sorts of books are generally those that are ministry related and are pressing for either personal spiritual growth or spiritual growth within the Church.

A book that I am currently reading through and marking up with a red pen is entitled Preaching by Calvin Miller. I stumbled across Miller’s writings at Because of the Times ’95 with a book entitled The Table of Inwardness and deals with personal prayer and times alone with God. It is a very good book and I am almost certain that it is still in print.

Miller’s work on preaching was inspirational, insightful, and also very challenging. The value of this book is noted in how much writing that I accomplished in the margins and in the front flaps and will certainly end up writing in the back flaps also.

The following are some of my own personal thoughts that I wrote while reading this book. I will also give the page numbers that prompted my comments.

p. 13 -- Passionate and real Biblical preaching will always be driven by a strong and unyielding devotional life. If the prayer life and the private devotional life of the preacher are taken care of then the preaching will take care of itself also. This is why that we need deep wells within our souls. These deep wells are dug out with prayer, fasting, time with the Word, and with soul-satisfying fellowship with other men of God. Nothing can substitute for time alone with God.

p. 16 -- Preachers who have no God hunger may have some good things to say but they lack the passion and that is essential to create the Kingdom of God and transform the world. There has to be a visceral hunger in the life of the preacher that mere scholarship can never attain to.

p. 17 -- On “Bible-Lite”, user friendly Christians. Have I lost my salt and has my light gone out? Weak living puts out the taste and the light. Never be afraid to call for commitment. When I am more concerned with “feelings” than with a loving confrontation with truth. . . I need to take down my shingle, back my bags, and go sell shoes.

p. 26 -- We make a mistake in always trying to come up with some new nifty little thought. Pay attention to the great pursuit of virtue in your life.

p. 36 -- bosko the Sheep!!!! They are dying for a Word. When my messages are more “story-time” than “transformation” time they fall way short. It doesn’t matter that “stories” may be more interesting this is nothing more than junk food. Give them the meat of the Word because long after you are dead, that Word is going to live on.

p. 202 -- Every sermon is a trip—a movement from where we are to where we ought to be.

There are a lot of very good sections in between p. 36 and 202. Beyond this there is an excellent Bibliography at the end that any diligent student who wants to improve his preaching and the disciplines required to do so can run down. This bibliography by Miller is somewhat annotated and he gives some classic observations about these books.

I wish I fell into the category of a great preacher! I wish that I had the brilliance of mind of some preachers that I have met and heard (Treece, Pugh). I wish that I had the power of persuasion of some of the preachers that I have heard in the past (A. Mangun, Kilgore). I certainly wish that I ability to take something obscure in the Word and set it up in such a way that it gripped the very soul (Osborne, Gurley). I wish I had the oratorical ability of some men that I have heard in the past (Fuller). But I certainly feel very inadequate in trying to put the “volume of the Book” into the lives of those who hear me preach.

However, that prevailing sense of inadequacy drives me to such an extent that it robs me of sleep, it can even get me up early, it drives me to read about preaching, it creates much conversation with some of my closest friends about preaching, it causes me to listen to preaching, but what it most often does is drive me to the presence of God. I attend that to that presence sometimes with the frustrating question of “what shall I say?” I find myself in that presence wondering how in the world that a man can really speak the Words of God. That is the great challenge of preaching.

I hope that I never “learn” how to preach for on the day that I do. . . the presence of God will depart and I will be like Samson and will not even be aware that the presence and the anointing of God have left.


scott phillips said…
Bravo and Cuddos,

Very Good again. The transparent humanity you display in your writing is captivating.

keep up the Good work.

Scott Phillips
Anonymous said…
Well written my brother. I may have to check out this book. We novice pastors need all the help we can get!
Anonymous said…
Having several of Calvin Millers books in our library, I've found that his recent books tend to be much more evangelical and liberal than his previous works. However, there is much "thought" to glean from them.
P. Childers-TN

Popular posts from this blog


Characters from Pilgrim's Progress -- Valiant for Truth

Why You Should Have a Prayer Journal