Sunday, June 17, 2007

Narrative Sermon with Fear and Trembling

So...I preached a narrative sermon again this morning (mostly). I was looking at I Cor. 11:28 about "Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink of the cup," and was caught by the words "everyone ought to examine themselves."

(The audio can be heard at:

I had seen an outline that spoke that we need to examine our companions, our habits, our thoughts, our priorities and our motives. I liked the outline, but was a little bored with preaching it straight. And then I thought of narrative. What if I told a short story about five different people taking communion who needed to examine their companions habits. thoughts, priorities and motives. And so I did. But I pulled my punch a bit. I spent the last 7-8 minutes doing a "here's what each story means" explanation. The words of of those who push narrative preaching kept ringing in my head, "Trust the story to convey the message. Trust the story to convey the message. Trust the story."
And to one extent I did, but to another I didn't. I still had to do some straight teaching at the end to drive it home.

But I did so with a little fear & trembling. I had Cherie (my children's minister) agree to pray while I was preaching. The reason why I wanted more prayer than normal was that the last time I did this it was a disaster. It was in my first or second year here and I preached a 1st person narrative sermon on Elijah. I had a staff person read the text for the morning and then I came up in character (although not in costume) and preached the sermon as if I were Elijah. I felt REALLY good about it. I felt that it powerfully connected where Elijah was with where we are.

I thought it was well thought out and well executed. But frankly I got spooked. You'd have thought I'd denied the virgin birth (I didn't!) There were people who were actually angry after church and one person wrote to the elders that it was the sorriest excuse for a sermon and I was the sorriest excuse for a preacher that he had ever seen. The main guy (who wrote the letter) is still in the church and I thought that it would be best to leave narrative alone. I had done it effectively in my former church, but the congregation here was obviously different.

But as I looked at this text, it just seemed to scream narrative. To tell the story of five people who need to examine themselves, but who don't. Presentation-wise the sermon went fine. I read my notes too much, but in a story that is a little more acceptable. First worship hour only one man...a visitor...made any comment "Well you gave us something to think about!" (OK?!?) Second service one of my secretaries Kim (an encourager) gave me a thumbs up as she left & she said, "GREAT SERMON!" That was it. (At least no one one was mad.) Sometimes the Sundays I get no response it means that people are still processing what I have said. Time will tell what kind of response it gets. We'll see...

What has been your experience with narrative preaching?

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