This morning I received an email from my divinity school that Calvin Miller died.

I learned much from Dr. Miller in the classroom, both at Southwestern at the master’s level and then again at Beeson in a doctoral seminar.  I learned two things about preaching from Dr. Miller.  The first is that the sermon has work to do.  It is the preacher’s job to figure out what that work is.  The second thing I learned from him is that preaching should be creative.

Long after I left the classroom though, I continued to learn and enjoy Dr. Miller’s talent through his books even though I lived 3,000 miles away.  Here are my top five of his volumes, in reverse order.

5.  The Dogs of Snoqualmie–It may not be his best fiction, but the setting is Seattle and for that reason it connected to me.

4.  O Shepherd, Where Art Thou?–Never mind that he ripped off the title from “O Brother Where Art Thou” this book was a call for pastors to return to shepherding and stop trying to be famous or big time. It was a biting rebuke that I needed.

3.  Spirit, Word and Story and Marketplace Preaching–These are two different volumes, but I find they go together as a single set.  It is a little dated now, but I find the essence of the instruction to still be true.

2.  Preaching–This is Miller’s best work on preaching and communicating and I believe it should be a textbook right along with Haddon Robinson and Bryan Chapell for first year preaching classes in seminary.

1.  The Singer–Okay, The Singer, The Song and The Finale altogether really.  I was 4 years old when he wrote The Singer, so I never knew them as independent stories.  I only read them as one volume.  These were the stories that made him famous.

The first time I heard Dr. Miller preach was in a chapel service at Southwestern Seminary and two miracles happened.  The first miracle was that I was at chapel–something that almost never happened.  The second was that in hearing him preach I remembered that when God called me to the ministry he called my own unique personality–I could be me–and that was just fine.  Dr. Miller proved that a person did not have to fit the mold everyone else fit into in order to be a faithful servant to Christ and his church.  In that chapel service God used him to help me become who I am, and that is something I am eternally grateful for.  I tried to tell him that one time, but I think I swallowed the words and it came out so wrong.  He was such a hero to me that I turned into a blithering idiot in his presence.


      • Loved this tribute. “Table of Inwardness” is in there for me as a life-shaping book. I heard him preach/read a sermon while attending a pastor’s conference in Oklahoma. I was mesmerized.

        Ten years later I hosted a pastors conference in Colorado and we invited Calvin to lead a seminar on preaching. Wow. I got to hang out with him a couple of days and was deeply touched by his humility.

        I told him, “I really enjoy your writing. Especially the Table of Inwardness book. He turned to me and locked eyes and said, “You really mean that, Joe?” I allowed that I was serious. He said, “You have no idea what that means to me. Thanks.”

        I almost started crying back then…in 1992. I feel a tear stinging my eyes now.

        Great man, is what he was.

      • joe–thanks for commenting and reading. some people just have a way of connecting with people at the human level, and calvin was one of those people. i appreciate your story.

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