Review – Preach By Ear, by Dave McClellan


Dave McClellan is a graduate of Grace College and Denver Seminary, as well as having a PhD in Rhetoric & Communication from Duquesne University. He is the pastor of The Chapel at Tinkers Creek.

What if there were a different way to prepare and to preach? What if we have learned preaching in a primarily literacy-based worldview? What if preaching were really an oral form of communication – not just in delivery, but in every respect? What if there were a genuinely oral homiletic? Preach By Ear leans heavily on Walter Ong’s work in respect to orality and literacy. Since the massive changes wrought by the printing press, we have gained so much. But Dave McClellan suggests we may have lost much as well.

He argues compellingly that preaching is intended to be genuinely from the preacher, rather than an external, arms length, process. Yet the effect of literacy is to separate thought from the person. Hence so much of today’s preaching is prepared via book study that is held at arms length, then delivered leaning on notes that keep the sermon separate from the preacher and completed before the event of delivery. McClellan suggests that while preaching has moved back and forth on the orality-literacy scale through the centuries, the 20th century saw the most extreme move to the literacy end of the scale ever.Homiletics was separated from rhetoric and the approach we are familiar with is not as balanced and effective as we may think it is.

As well as leaning Walter Ong, McClellan also looks to Quintillian for rhetorical input. The DVD’s contain a 7-part series of presentations, with each part ranging from 15-25 minutes in length (the final part – “homework” – is a bit longer).  On the one hand the full series is necessarily brief and lacking in the extra background and footnotes that a book might offer (as well as more worked examples to help the viewer see how Preaching By Ear can be genuinely expositional in practice). On the other hand, the series didn’t need to be any longer (it is up to the viewer to apply the lessons learned in a way that handles the text well).  It achieves its purpose of introducing an alternative approach to preaching and sermon preparation well. It may make you want to pursue aspects of the subject further, or simply start getting experience with this different approach.

This double DVD set is very well produced and enjoyable to watch. While it is not exactly “Hollywood” in production quality, it goes well above and beyond a video of a seminar.  The quality of production is clear in the clips available on the website – see below.  Anyay, in the 7-part series on the DVDs, Dave McClellan lays a foundation for an orality-based approach to preaching and then offers some instruction. The first three parts present the concept of orality and literacy, a theology of orality and a brief (but interesting) history of preaching. The next three parts are concerned with preparing the preacher, preparing the message and delivery. The final part offers a series of practical suggestions to help the viewer become better prepared for genuinely oral preaching.

I would encourage you to get hold of this DVD set and ponder its content. Perhaps you’re already kind of thinking this way. Perhaps you’re at the opposite end of the scale. Wherever you are at in your preaching, I think it would be worth adding Preach By Ear to the mix.

By the way, during July the DVD’s are on sale for 50% of the normal price. To see preview clips and order the DVD set, please go to PreachByEar.Com

One thought on “Review – Preach By Ear, by Dave McClellan

  1. Keeping oneself out of a message is good for TV I guess. They can edit the message before it gets on TV. One for the church, and one for the TV or Radio people.

    I do not have that ability. What others see on our video is what our church hears. That could be interesting for sure.

    Putting oneself into the message and delivery is part of preaching. Keeping the text before the people is the key.

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