The Center for Faith & Culture—Olivet Nazarene University

Adam Lewis

An Exercise in Narrative Preaching


Reaching a contemporary audience is an increasingly difficult challenge. We are forced to find ways to make our preaching relevant and engaging. One of the interesting contemporary preaching models is called narrative preaching.  Narrative preaching has different traits than expository or propositional preaching.  They include:

  •  The preacher taking an imaginative stance before the text
  • The thesis of the sermon being delayed until the middle or the end
  • Moments of strategic confusion leading to the resolve at the end

Some preachers might struggle in preaching a narrative sermon because it doesn't have a formulaic skeleton. Narrative preaching doesn't have an opening illustration, three points, and a conclusion.  In fact, the illustrations become the points themselves and the listener is left to fill in the blanks and take away their message without being told what to take away.

Narrative texts are prime candidates for narrative preaching. The story of Jesus' encounter with Nicodemus is a good example. John 3 is a wonderful story that doesn't really have an immediate resolve.  We don't know if Nicodemus accepted the words of Jesus and changed his life, or if he is back to his old ways until we reach the end of John's Gospel (19:39-40).  The story found in John 3 invites us into the conversation, coming to our own personal conclusions to the story. What follows is an example of approaching this text in a narrative way.

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