His handshake is what stood out.
I met Calvin Miller as he came out of the sanctuary side door at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. He had preached in chapel that day and I stopped to introduce myself and to thank him for the sermon.
He shook my hand, placed his left hand on my shoulder, and looked in my eyes to say thank you. I walked away with the sense of a genuinely warm man who loved people.
A few hours later, Dr. Miller spoke to the PhD students. We were a hypercritical group, ready to roast him when we returned to the carrel room if he slipped up. Instead, he brought an evangelical breath of fresh air. The man who addressed us the previous semester spoke in circles and didn’t seem to believe anything. Calvin Miller spoke with humility, humor, and an obvious love for the Lord and His Word.
I don’t remember all that he said that day, but a throwaway sentence changed my entire approach to preaching. While discussing narrative and story in preaching, Miller mentioned that his sermons were mainly one-point sermons, with subpoints. That single sentence started a journey that forever changed my preaching style.
After hearing Dr. Miller at MABTS, I bought Preaching: The Art of Narrative Exposition. His ability to combine content with humor and insight impressed me. I became a fan.
Since then, I’ve read several of Miller’s books. His memoir, Life is Mostly Edges, touched me as deeply as any book I’ve read. Letters to a Young Pastor encouraged me beyond expectation.
I sent an e-mail to Dr. Miller, on January 12, 2012, after reading Letters to a Young Pastor.
I want to thank you for your book, Letters to a Young Pastor. I found the book encouraging and insightful. Your stories remind us young pastors that we are not in this thing alone; we all share similar experiences, successes, and failures.
I have to confess that your story in letter 35, about your experience at the urinal with a difficult church member, had me laughing out loud. I was the only one in the church building at the time, so I’m glad no one walked in to see me laughing all by myself in the office.
I heard you speak a few years ago at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. Since then I’ve read and greatly benefitted from several of your books. Thank you for your ministry.
Pastor – Fellowship Baptist Church
Here is his response from the following day.
John I am ever so thankful for your letter. I do hope the book which has been on the market for a very short time, will find a readership as open as you have been.
It does mean so much.
It is a simple note of thank you that encouraged me.
I have a Bible, given at my ordination, in which I record ministry milestones. I write down dates, events, and thoughts on the blank pages in the back. My e-mail with Calvin Miller now sits between two pages of that Bible.
I will never again meet Calvin Miller in this life. Ironically, the only time I met him was before I appreciated him. His influence and ministry, however, continue through me and those he taught.
I believe the world would benefit from a few more Calvin Millers.
I will be forever grateful for the one we had.