The idea of developing an “orally-based model of preaching” intrigued me enough to pick up Preaching by Ear. I’m glad I did. Not because I’m giving up writing out my sermon notes/outline. No, I’ll be hanging on to those, at least for now. Instead, Preaching by Ear did two things well enough to warrant my commendation: it taught me something new, and it made me think.
What turned out to be most helpful to me was not the section describing McClellan’s preaching model. It was the first section, “Preparing the Preacher.” McClellan pulls from the writings of Augustine, Aristotle, and Quintilian, themselves preachers or orators from ancient times, to make the reader to consider just how prepared we are to preach. Preparation is not just a matter of studying a text or consulting the right commentaries. McClellan challenges us, through these men, to assimilate the text into ourselves such that we are able to “speak God’s truth from the inside out.” Without a doubt this section was my favorite part of the book.
The second part of the book describes McClellan’s preaching method. Early on he says that preaching by ear is “speaking from personally held, deep convictions in a way that enables our words to unfold in the moment by considering the actual people present with us. We are well prepared, but we’re not certain exactly how it will come out of our mouths.” This might seem geared towards people who are either natural public speakers, but I believe his method has some weight to it. All preachers, regardless of whether they plan to follow McClellan’s method exactly, will certainly find themselves learning from and agreeing with much of what he says.
I requested this book from the publisher for the purpose of providing a review.