There is a field of homiletics referred to as narrative preaching, but this post is concerned with the preaching of a narrative passage – eg. David and Goliath, Joseph in Potiphar’s House, Hannah & Samuel, etc.
In other posts I have encouraged the use of full sentence points, rather than descriptive titles that make the message outline look like a commentary synopsis. The full thoughts help you communicate effectively, generally avoiding historical past tense sentences helps you not sound like a commentary recycler. But it is worth clarifying a couple of points on points:
1. If the message structure reflects the story structure, then some points may be better stated in historical terms. What I mean is that in an attempt to be contemporary, we can end up making three or four life principles out of the developing elements of the story, rather than allowing the story to be told properly. The problem then becomes a moralizing approach to the details of a story, rather than allowing the force of the story to stand behind the main point, which itself might best be the only focus of application. Stories that are told effectively will hold attention, so it is not necessary to generate points of relevance or application throughout the detail of the story. Pay careful attention to the introduction, generating a definite sense of sermon relevance there, then feel free to be in the world of the narrative for a large part of the message, continually building to the relevance that may only become overt in point 3 or 4 (i.e. whenever the main idea is revealed with its abiding theological thrust).
2. Shorter biblical stories may work best with a default sermon outline. Namely, point 1 is to tell the story. Point 2 is to state and clarify the main idea of that story. Point 3 is to reinforce and drive home the application of that main idea. In this case point 1 is automatically historical. Point 2 should be written in contemporary terms. Point 3 has to be contemporary, including all sub-points. Again the introduction is important, but I suspect that will be the case in almost every sermon that we preach (whether we give it the necessary attention or not). This approach underlines the fact that the outline of a sermon is for your eyes only. Once we realize our goal is not to transfer an outline, but to give the text in such a way as to clarify the main point and apply it, then we are freed from the burden of turning every narrative into a parallel rhyming assonated demonstration of guilded wordsmithery.