From the recently-released Celebrate Jesus! Millennium Bible to his collection of poems for children, Dr. Calvin Miller has one rule: Avoid stodgy writing.
The author of more than 40 books put his rule to good use in writing the devotions and commentary for the Millennium Bible. He spent a year and a half gathering facts, portraits and little-known quotes about Jesus.
One result: The new Bible includes 366 quotes selected from 2,000 years of various writings about Jesus. One saying per day accompanies a devotional section that provides a year and a day's worth of Bible study.
Short sayings of "What people thought about Jesus" are included from such historical figures as Thomas Aquinas, John Wesley, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Teresa of Avila, Martin Luther, Dwight Moody, John Calvin and C.S. Lewis.
Miller is Professor of Preaching and Pastoral Ministry at Samford University's Beeson Divinity School. His reputation as a "literary and reflective sort of guy" prompted Broadman & Holman Publishing to choose him for the Millennium Bible project, he believes.
"Study Bibles can be stodgy," Miller acknowledged. "I guess publishers know I can make them loose."
Miller also believes a writer who writes in only one genre is in danger of becoming predictable. There's little chance of that happening to him.
"I enjoy any genre where I'm free to be creative," he said. His subjects run the gamut from theological works such as Spirit, Word and Story, which is used as a college textbook, to Apples, Snakes and Bellyaches, the children's poetry collection.
In wide demand as a speaker, he frequently is called upon to read his children's poems to adult audiences, and his poem, "Catherine Caterpillar," has been requested for reading at funerals. He once used his poem, "Owner's Manual for the Unfinished Soul," in a pre-game devotion for professional football's Green Bay Packers.
One of Miller's earliest books of popular theology, The Singer, has sold more than a million copies in its various printings since appearing in 1975. The book about the life of Christ has been published in British, Dutch and Finnish editions.
Miller joined Samford in January of 1999 after serving as professor of communication and ministry studies and writer-in-residence at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Forth Worth, Texas, since 1991. Before that, he was pastor of Westside Baptist Church, Omaha, Neb., for 25 years, during which the congregation grew from 10 to 2,500 members.
Two of his later works are The Empowered Communicator, published in 1994, and Market-Place Preaching, which appeared in 1995. He is currently working on another study Bible, Fruit of the Spirit, for Zondervan Publishing.
"I like being a writer, but also like being with students," says Miller, who particularly enjoys weekly study and lunch sessions with nine divinity students who are in his "core group." To relax, he paints watercolors, some of which brighten his divinity school office.