Preaching delivery can generally be categorised into one of 3 styles: Narrative, Expository, and Topical. Narrative preaching is basically a fancy name for biblical storytelling. Expository preaching consists of taking a portion of scripture and expounding (presenting and explaining) it’s meaning. Topical preaching consists of selecting a specific subject and then applying the major biblical texts that relate to it.
Narrative preaching takes a passage of scripture and presents it as a story seen through the eyes of either someone observing the action (3rd person) or a character in the story itself (1st person).
The strengths of narrative preaching are:
- It engages the people listening – who doesn’t like a story dramatically told.
- It involves the listeners in an emotional or sense-based encounter with the characters in the story.
- Stories are fairly easy to remember.
- In an illiterate community, it serves as a partial substitute for the Bible.
But narrative preaching does have weaknesses:
- It is not at all effective, and sometimes impossible, to present the teaching-rich portions of the Bible. Imagine trying to convey the meaning of chapters 14 to 17 of John’s Gospel, let alone the Letter to the Romans, using only a narrative style.
- It is difficult to emphasize the key truths of a passage without breaking the flow and interest of the story. The danger is that listeners may benefit to some extent from the story but not comprehend the truth that the story is supposed to incorporate.
- Application to current living is also mainly absent from narrative preaching and the listener can get lost in biblical time without appreciating how to apply the contents to modern life.
- Not all topical or expository preachers are good story tells and the style can easily degenerate into amateur dramatics.
In our church, we are currently preaching through John’s Gospel using the first-person narrative style. My contribution to date has been to tell the story of the woman at the well from John chapter four. Have a listen and see if you agree with my analysis of this form of preaching.