One of my favorite Christian writers is Calvin Miller. Miller weaves excellence in his storytelling with deep insight that’s able to be grasped. My first introduction to Miller’s writing was his 2002 tale of “Pastor Sam” in “The Sermon Maker”. I recently re-read the book and thought I’d share some thoughts on it with you.
“The Sermon Maker” is a tale of a preacher who feels like his preaching’s gone dry. It doesn’t help that he has a lady in his church that critiques him at every turn. In a moment of desperation, Pastor Sam cries out to God who answers his prayer by sending “Sermoniel”, the angel of hermeneutics (fancy word for sermon preparation). In the three short sections of the story, Sam is challenged to look at his preaching in a different light, consider his relationship with God, and how he lives as a shepherd amongst his congregation. Without giving too much away, the story weaves through various trials that come up during this process with Sermoniel popping in from time to time to right the well-meaning preacher. The ending I’ll leave untold but it’s worth the read.
This book was Miller’s fable on learning a preaching method he calls “Narrative Exposition”. Learning the art of telling a story to captivate listeners without compromising the power of the gospel message. An interesting feature of this book is that the story is told only on the “odd” numbered pages while the “even” numbered pages are reserved for detailed notes Miller ties to footnotes in his story. You can read the book by trying to follow the notes as you go but for me, it was easier to read the story first and then go back and read the notes. A few years after this book’s publication, Miller wrote a detailed book on the subject titled “Preaching – The Art of Narrative Exposition”.
For me, the story was as enjoyable the second time around as it was when I read it six years ago. Most anyone who presents God’s Word each weekend knows the feeling of having “struck out” with the message. I think we all can identify with Pastor Sam when he struggles with his inner self-esteem, his “agitator” Emma Johnson, and the dialog he has with Sermoniel. You can sit down and read this book in a night or you can break it up into three short sessions (one session for each section of the tale) and review the notes on each section before proceeding to the next.
The Sermon Maker is still available as a paperback so you can get it reasonably. I hope Miller makes more of his works available as ebooks because this is one I certainly would like to have a digital copy of as well. It’s a great book and highly recommended to all who preach and study God’s Word.