Book Review: Preaching: The Art of Narrative Exposition by Calvin Miller
Posted by JasonS on April 6, 2010
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Preaching: The Art of Narrative Exposition
What I expected was to be another book teaching how to prepare a sermon was a very pleasant and different book. There are indeed some very good points about creating a sermon and the author gives many pointers along the way in the form of questions and outlines that one can use to help guide them in their sermon preparation. This book was different in that it teaches things that most preachers will probably never learn in seminary: the interaction with the congregation.
Miller calls for us to be expositors, but not dull, dreary ones. We should be expositors who can tell the story of God’s glory in a manner that grips the hearts and minds of the people. Whether we add humor, drama, good illustrations, or use a narrative text, we should always seek to create something more than a three point sermon. It’s not that we should have a 4-7 point sermon. It’s that we should rather refuse to take the one point of a text and break it into pieces that seem unrelated. Let the sermon have one point even if our outline has seven. What? Yes. The sermon should find the big picture of the text and simply repaint the picture so as to appeal to the heart of each hearer with the message of God.
In so doing, Miller reminds us to exegete our text before we turn to the books. We should read our text and learn all that we can from it on our own before we turn to the library to see what others have to say about it. In so doing, we become part of the text, it becomes part of us, and our people recognize the fact that what we are preaching is from our hearts.
Not only should we exegete the text, but we should exegete the congregation. Most pastors know to whom they are preaching. We should see the crowd, know their needs, heartaches, and struggles. We should then take our text and see how it relates to them and how we should apply it to them.
What truly spoke to me, however, is the fact that Miller calls for the preacher to be a person in whom the fire of God burns. The church will seldom get on fire if the pulpit is not burning brightly. He calls for the pastor to be a man of character who will live what he preaches and have a good testimony before the people so that they know he is genuine. The strength of a sermon is not always found in rhetorical skill, but often in relationships. The people often listen because of what and who the pastor is instead of how he speaks.
The author also warns us about common pitfalls such as: expecting each sermon to be our best, and the next sermon to improve upon that. Often we fail. When we are committed to being faithful, and the church knows that we love Christ and them, we can relax in the performance category and get down to the work of simply getting the message across. He also speaks about dealing with disruptions, long-term pastorates, and much more.
If I were to sum it up, I would say that Miller calls the preacher to not only be a good expositor who can relate the message to the people, but to be a sermon in himself so that the people will listen to him.
Thanks to our friends at Baker for this review copy.
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