Most people have. Let me share the three reasons people gave at the seminar last weekend for having done this, then I’ll make my point clear:
1. It’s like children wanting the same story told over and over – it gives a sense of security.
2. You catch details you didn’t see first time through.
3. You still enjoy the satisfying bits.
All very true. My point? When your preaching text is a familiar narrative, it may be tempting to just talk about it rather than to tell the story again . . . don’t. Tell the story!
1. If you tell the story well, all of these three things apply. It’s not just children that appreciate security. In a changing and often worrying world, it is very reassuring at a deep level to be reminded of the unchanging truths of God’s Word – God is still on the throne, Joseph’s story still works out God’s greater plan, Daniel still honors God in the persecution, Jesus still tells Jairus not to fear, and ultimately, the story of the gospel is still true.
2. People do notice things when a story is well told that they may have never noticed before – “I never realised she understood Jesus that way!” or “I never picked up his gentleness of tone with her before” or whatever. Just because people have heard a story numerous times, it doesn’t mean they have really understood it. (How many times has Jonah been told and the point been missed?)
3. It is very satisfying to again experience the resolution of tension in a narrative, even if you know how the story ends. If this is true with a movie, how much more with true narratives of the Bible? It’s satisfying to hear Nebuchadnezzar’s statement about God after the grass eating incident. It’s satisfying to see the ram caught in the bush after having your heart pounding as the knife is raised over Isaac. It’s satisfying to see everyone safely on shore after the incredible adventure of Paul’s shipwreck.
Narratives create security, they intrigue with new insights, they satisfy with tensions resolved. Narratives tap into the human ability to identify with others. Narratives stir the emotions. Narratives drop the guard of the listener so that truth can hit home. Narratives are powerful. That’s why God inspired so many of them. When you preach a narrative . . . be sure to tell the story well!