Quotes from Calvin Miller

May 18, 2013

Preaching is an art in which a studied, professional sinner tells the less studied sinners how they ought to believe, behave, and serve.

Preaching cannot afford to opt for being cute when it ought to be visceral.

Many preachers below the Mason-Dixon Line still yell a lot, which often accomplishes little more than to clothe weak sermons with volume.

No reasonable book on the subject of preaching can begin with what is said. The force of preaching must begin with who’s saying it.

The world is too sick to be healed by a preacher’s congenial placebos. Merely to build a big hospital is a lame dodge for practicing real medicine.

The world comes to church looking precisely for a sense of significance, and we who preach tell them week by week that God loves them. It’s a truth we tell to give them that sense of significance for which they sought us. But it is a truth that can only be told by those who sense that the preacher also loves them. There is not the slightest chance that they will get hold of the first truth, unless they feel the second.

Only the truly otherworldly have earned the right to speak of the other world.

The preacher is not an answer man. Preachers are God-lovers.

Great preachers are positive purveyors of the wonder of God.

God has a word for us, not an opinion. The kingdom of God is not a discussion club. The church doesn’t gather on Sunday to invite opinion. It gathers to hear the Bible—the Word of God—the wisdom of ancient saints and martyrs comes down to the current calendar after a march of centuries.

Doctrines are the high-voltage center of the faith. Doctrines are the faith.

Sermons that are only about the practical things of this world are often too bound by this world to help them. And this world is too weak to heal what is wrong with most people’s lives.

The best of sermons have never been a belch of information or piety. Good homiletics are wellness reports that take seriously the cure of souls.

The noblest of prophets should feel before they advise.

Preaching Christ is the purpose and intent of the sermon and comes from a preacher whose life is captive to the momentary presence of Christ.

The best preached sermons don’t try to write the Bible on the lives of their hearers, they write their hearers into the Bible.

The pastor who doesn’t care for people has missed the heart of God.

Sermons grow robust in the soul of the listening servant. The best prophets listen before they preach—they reason before they rage.

All application comes to rest on the hearer as one basic conundrum. Shall I be the lord of my life or shall I have a Lord for my life?

Surrender is the only option when God is the only subject.

Propositions give you the information you need to build a life on, and stories motivate you to want to build such a life.

Pain itself does not make us preach well, but it builds a sensitivity that does make our particular emotional experience speak to that of the whole. Only weathered wood makes singing violins.

Where there is real preaching, the sermon is always reminding the flock that the church doesn’t just get together to be told how to live more morally but to remind itself that the church is on a mission.

For those who preach, the most important question for the preacher is not “What shall I say in this sermon?” but “What do I want to happen?”


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