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Preaching by Ear: Speaking God's Truth from the Inside Out

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This volume represents a powerful tool because it offers a new (actually old) model of preaching. For centuries preaching has been shaped from a literary standpoint (i.e., reading, writing, outlining, and displaying sermons). But a pre-modern method of oral preparation and delivery largely has been forgotten. Preaching by Ear hearkens back to an earlier era when sermons were rooted inside the preacher and moved out in a natural and powerful way.

Praise for Preaching by Ear

If we preach sermons for listening congregations, why prepare them for readers? But since the printing press sermons have moved from memorable oral patterns to the forgettable patterns of the written word.

Preaching by Ear

invites pastors to prepare messages for auditoriums—the communication environment of people in church—and to engage listeners through premeditated (not pre-scripted) preaching. This volume revitalizes content-rich, Scriptural preaching by pastors for listeners like us through the principles of oral thought.

—Calvin Troup, Associate Professor; Director, Rhetoric Ph.D. Program, Department of Communication & Rhetorical Studies, Duquesne University

Sermons are delivered orally, so why should they be conceived and gestated in literacy? Using Augustine, Plato, Aristotle, and especially Quintilian, Preaching by Ear explores the art and science of orality. Homiletics owes much to classical rhetoric, and McClellan continues to show us why. He challenges us to live lives of curiosity and worship, study and pray ourselves deep into the text, ‘map’ (not outline) the sermon, practice aloud, and then step out in faith without the safety net (or is it a straightjacket?) of written notes. Written by a pastor and scholar, Preaching by Ear will inform and challenge you.

—Jeffrey D. Arthurs, Professor of Preaching and Communication; Chair, Division of Practical Theology, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

This book comes like a tall glass of cold water on a hot day. For too long, we have been writing sermons, as if people were going to read them instead of listen to them. Dave McClellan believes that if our sermons are going to be heard, we need to speak them into being. He is right. This is an engaging book, entirely relevant to our present moment. I can't wait to hear the preaching that results.

—Kenton C. Anderson, President of Northwest Baptist Seminary; Professor of Homiletics at ACTS Seminaries of Trinity Western University

Top Highlights

“We must face our struggling marriages, our poor work ethic, our desperate lack of compassion, our hiding and blaming. A dishonest, angry, or negligent preacher will never produce a grounded sermon no matter how many commentaries are consulted. We cannot escape ourselves, and until we face ourselves our preaching cannot help but suffer.” (Page 45)

“On the one side he was schooled regarding Plato’s conception of the Philosopher, who loves the truth, and only the truth, despising all efforts to massage or exploit it for personal gain. On the other hand he knew the arguments of Plato’s detractors, the Sophists, who questioned whether there is such a universal truth. The Sophists recognized that ‘truth’ is articulated from a particular point of view, and those with varying points of view both claim to have truth on their side.4 For the Sophist it was pointless to seek universal truth since all truth is situational and based in perception rather than reality. These are the same issues we wrestle with today.” (Page 37)

“He redefined eloquence from something that is constructed by rules to something that flows naturally from the inside out. A good preacher, he said, will not be consumed with looking eloquent or sounding eloquent. The good preacher is consumed with the truth of the message, which fuels a sort of unschooled or natural eloquence that is self-forgetful.” (Pages 14–15)

“While the Scripture text and the sermon are inseparable, we must be careful not to use our study of Scripture to audition it for the next sermon. As preachers we need to keep a respect for Scripture as it is by itself, not merely as a tool for our profession. We must read it for its message and marinate our lives in it without jumping ahead and thinking, ‘This will preach.’” (Page 44)


  • Part 1: Preparing the Preacher
    • Something Old, Something New
    • The Wise Preacher: Augustine’s Homiletic
    • Baloney: Why We Trust Some Speakers and Dismiss Others
    • Quintilian: A Surprising Preaching Tutor
  • Part 2: Developing an Orally Based Model of Preaching
    • Why God Is Partial to the Spoken Word
    • Tongue before Text: Introduction to Orality
    • Finding the Sermon That’s “Already There”
    • Swallowing the Word: Building a Sermon Inside You
    • Going Off Script: The Internalized Sermon in the Live Room

Product Details

  • Title: Preaching by Ear: Speaking God's Truth from the Inside Out
  • Author: Dave McClellan
  • Publisher: Lexham Press
  • Publication Date: 2014
  • Pages: 192
  • Format: Logos Digital, Paperback
  • Trim Size: 5.5x8.5
  • ISBN: 9781683592167

About Dave McClellan

Dave McClellan is senior pastor of The Chapel at Tinkers Creek in Streetsboro, Ohio, and an adjunct professor at Indiana Wesleyan University, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and John Carroll University. He received a Bachelor of Science in Communication from Grace College and a Master of Divinity from Denver Seminary before completing a Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric and Communication from Duquesne University.


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  1. Jonathan Peters

    Jonathan Peters


    Many, many thanks, Dave! Having been in ministry 50+ years, I think this should be required reading and practice for every seminary student. Taking your advice has been SO energizing and freeing. I'm in your debt.


Print list price: $19.99
Save $6.00 (30%)