As a ministry student, I have the pleasure of reading a wide array of books that are designed to sharpen the skills of preachers. I know that when I first began ministry, I definitely could have used some sharpening to hone my speaking abilities. Despite having been a business major in high school and in undergrad, as well as someone who competed in public speaking events through Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), preaching is another animal entirely. You’re engaging the listening audience in a completely different context.
During my last semester, one of the books that I was required to read was titled The Homiletical Plot: The Sermon as Narrative Art Form. Written by Eugene L. Lowry, known as a professor of preaching, this book is designed to help preachers understand the benefits of a well-crafted sermon using a narrative format. Understanding that preachers can be expository, topical, or narrative in how they proclaim the gospel to a congregation.
What I found useful about Eugene Lowry’s book The Homiletical Plot, was that Lowry identifies five key aspects that a good narrative sermon possesses, yet still maintains that these five key aspects are not fixed. Preachers are individuals and each have their own skills and talents that separate them from one another. So, many can often feel as though a fixed way of doing something can appear unoriginal or restrictive.
The Homiletical Plot presents each of these five keys or “Stages” as he puts them; upsetting the equilibrium, analyzing the discrepancy, disclosing the clue to resolution, experiencing the gospel, and anticipating the consequences. He says that his students have reduced these terms to more simpler terms that are more memorable; the “Oops”, the “Ugh”, the “Aha”, the “Whee”, and they “Yeah.” After presenting each of these stages and their significance, Lowry shows how biblical narratives are already arranged to allow a preacher to preach using these stages.
If there is anything that this book has revealed for me, is that it will challenge preachers for whom a narrative style of preaching is not their natural inclination. For preachers who gravitate toward narrative preaching styles, it will enhance what they already do, as well as identify why some things work in what they are doing and what can be done to strengthen areas that are weak. This book is meant to draw upon the personal intuitions of the preacher and help them articulate the message.
I believe any preacher who desires to preach more effectively using a narrative style will find this useful and beneficial. Any preacher who desires to have another means of reaching their congregation by not being fixed to one style of another will be challenged to stretch themselves. I also believe that any pastor or leader can take this book and train staff and other preaching or teaching leaders in the church how to be better communicators of the gospel, which will bless those who hear what comes across the platform.
QUESTION: What are your thoughts concerning a narrative preaching style? If you’ve read this book, I’m curious what your thoughts are. Good or bad, what impact might it have had on what you’ve consider preaching to be.