Miller preached to a houseful of guns

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 14, 2019

As far as I know, Preacher Miller only faced death once in his preaching career, and that was during a gospel meeting up in the hills of Kentucky in the 1950s.

One night toward the end, he announced that he would preach a controversial sermon the next night. That next day, some of those rough Kentuckian farmers met him at his motel and warned him against preaching that sermon.

That night, the ol’ country church was packed. Regular church members were not the only ones there, either. Many of the non-church townspeople were affiliated with the controversial organization the preacher had to speak about, so folks came from all around. On the one side of that church that night were folks contrary to Preacher Miller’s position. On the other side were those who were in favor. A sword divided.

“But both sides had one thing in common,” Preacher Miller would later say, “They all were carryin’ guns inside their jackets. And I knew they would not be afraid to use them.”

Guns or no guns, the preacher had taken his stand, and it was too late to turn back. When the singing was done, Preacher Miller made his way to the pulpit just as he had done all that week – and the way he had done several thousand times in his 50-plus years of preaching.

“Brothers, sisters, and friends,” he began in his vintage style, “I may not walk out of this pulpit the same way I walked up here, but tonight, like I announced last evening, I’m goin’ to preach on somethin’ many of you don’t want me to preach.”

Then he began the sermon he knew he might never finish. He preached – quoting scriptures as he went – and sweated for the better part of an hour. He always sweated when he preached and kept a white handkerchief handy, but I cannot help but think he sweated a bit more that night than usual.

When it was all said and done that night, he got in his car and began his drive back home to Grandma in Georgia.

“But that wasn’t all there was to it,” he would tell me many times through the years, “As I drove home down that dark Kentucky road, I kept my eye in my rear view mirror on half a dozen set of car lights behind me, making sure I got out of town. When I got to the Tennessee line,” he said, with a slight sigh, “they all turned around and went on back home.”

I am glad that – after his stand in Kentucky – the Lord saw fit to give that great Georgia preacher another four decades to preach. In the late 1980s, he would finally take his last journey up to the pulpit to proclaim the gospel with that rare vigor, conviction and courage. He had lived long, he had preached hard; and when he left town in December 1989, it was one of the giants of that generation who left us.