Preaching and Story – Part 2

Yesterday we suggested that preaching on a Bible narrative should include more than just elements based on the story, but should actually tell the story.  Here’s another implication of the pervasive nature of narrative:

2. Don’t just enter the narrative as a means to an end, but see the entering in as a potential location of the “end.” That seems like a risky sentence, but I think it holds firm.  Too easily we feel that a story is, at best, an introduction to our pontifications, applications and morals.  But a well timed, well placed, well told story will often carry its own weight and do its own work.  The listeners will enter into it, they will find themselves in the world of the story, and they will feel the story in their world.  As they identify with the characters and feel the rising tension, as they see the tension resolved, as they feel the blessing of “their” character trusting God, or sense the emptiness of a character choosing the pain of sin, and so on, they will be impacted by the story, during the story.  God invented narrative, trusts narrative and so gave us loads of it in Scripture, knowing people would hear it and read it, and knowing that there wouldn’t always be the helpful explanation we sometimes feel God “needs” from people like us.  God knew what he was doing with the inspiration of narrative, perhaps our seeing story as effective communication in itself might be an act of faith that could bear fruit?  I am not anti-explanation or suggesting that storytelling replace preaching.  I am suggesting that in our preaching we don’t simply see narratives as illustration, or introductions to the “real stuff.”

It’s tempting to move on to the next implication, but perhaps it would be better to let this post linger longer.  Number three tomorrow.

One thought on “Preaching and Story – Part 2

  1. Thanks Peter. I have found that really helpful. I know my own approach, in unchecked, is to load everything at the beginning, unpack it and then look for an ‘impactive’ ending. The reality is that this will be from my own content even when I try to make it scriptural. In listening to others I find I am not alone and very often the tension and interest of the narrative is simply used as the introductory illustration. If the structure of the narrative was designed to help listeners understand and appreciate the message of the passage, then we should at the very least consider adopting it and using that structure and tension for our own listeners.

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