Preaching and Story – Part 1

This week I am in Asia, teaching an MDiv course on Preaching Biblical Narrative.  I’d value your prayers for the course, the students, the travel and the family back home.  On here I thought I would preload a series of posts reflecting on the place of biblical narrative in our preaching.  I hope it will spark comments, but I don’t know if I’ll have internet access to approve the comments, so apologies if yours doesn’t appear for a few days.

Life is lived in story.  We don’t just tell stories, and read them, and watch them, and share them on the phone, and observe them through our front windows, and hear about them in the workplace . . . we live them.  When we watch a movie, or read a book, we find ourselves feeling the tensions and identifying with characters, or pulling away from them.  Somehow we wonder what we would do, we share their joys, feel their pain, enter their world.  Why?  Because story is the water we swim in, so it is only natural that we connect.

So what?  Well, here are some possible implications in respect to preaching:

1. When preaching a narrative, don’t just preach propositions, but enter into the narrative. I well remember an introduction to a sermon I heard a while back, “I know you know the story, so I won’t tell it again now, let’s look at the theology of the story.” No!  It’s fair to say that only those already on board with that speaker’s theological take on things were positive about that message.  A narrative has to have a tension, a problem, a situation that needs to be resolved.  Enter into that, describe it, help the listeners to feel it.  A narrative has key characters, humans in a fallen world beset by tensions, people that the listeners will warm to, pull back from, feel for, or feel like.  Enter into that, describe them and their situation, help the listeners to feel it.  Don’t be so sophisticated that you leave the stories for the children.  When you preach story, tell the story.

Tomorrow we will look at another implication or two (there are four implications in this series).

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