Preaching NT Narrative (we’re just getting started)

When you preach from the Gospels or Acts, you begin with textual material that is engaging by nature. As preachers, we pray that we don’t get in the way by making powerful, interesting stories anemic and boring (Carter, Duvall, Hayes, Preaching God’s Word, 188).

Preaching NT narrative has received short shrift amongst those who write and talk about preaching. Look up at your bookshelf right now and try to find a volume that is completely devoted to preaching OT narrative. I see a few and some are very good. Now look up again and try to find a single volume dedicated to preaching NT narrative. It’s not there. Did someone take it and not bring it back? No, it has never been written. Trust me, I’ve looked like you wouldn’t believe. Some volumes look like they may fit the bill with titles that include phrases like “narrative preaching” but that’s another beast entirely. Some may have some self-published volume from the 1970’s but I haven’t seen that either. In the end, no one can readily think of a single book dedicated to preaching NT narrative that has been in print since most of us have been alive.

I’m not a pollster but I suspect that many fresh out of seminary types immediately begin their preaching ministry with a series in one of the epistles (I did). They then preach a series about the church and then return to preach another epistle. Call it a hunch but I suspect it’s close to the truth. Then there is another side of this thought where many seasoned neo-puritans spend long hours preaching narrative portions of Scripture because they are all about “finding something redemptive in the story.”  However, after listening to many of these so-called redemptive-historical sermons I can report from the front lines that they make Harry Houdini look like a toddler. Some preachers can magically make Jesus appear in the slightest mention of wood, water, or blood in the text. I don’t care how much one preaches about “social justice” or uses the word “gospel” as an adjective, the preacher does not have the right to make a narrative say whatever the home office in New York has dictated.

The positive side to all this is that I know many expositors who are seeking to faithfully preach NT narrative every week. I have been preaching Matthew for the last five years and know many men who have recently been in all the Gospels and Acts. I have no idea how long we will do this but I want to do whatever I can to aid expositors in understanding and proclaiming NT narrative more effectively. Today we begin a series that has been in the making for some time, “Preaching NT Narrative” (over time you will be able to find the series under the new category “preaching NT narrative”). Come back and enjoy the ride.

13 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Caleb Kolstad on January 27, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    The Long Awaited Ride is Here! This sounds very good…

  2. Posted by Gary on January 27, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    Hi, I’m getting ready to start Matthew in a couple months. Can you recommend some commentaries?

  3. Thanks Paul. I am really enjoying the ride in the book of John as I preach, but I can use some help here.

    • Hayden,

      What particular areas of preaching narrative do you find the most challenging? I hope to cover as much ground as possible but knowing specifics always helps. Hope you are doing well.


  4. Posted by Matt Waymeyer on January 28, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    I’ve been preaching the Gospel of John for almost three years now. I have a feeling this series on preaching NT narrative is going to make me want to start over. Thanks Paul.

  5. Posted by Scott Christensen on January 28, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    I’m in John 15 after 3 years and I wasn’t planning to do another NT narrative book any time soon. Your timing is off, Paul. But the best is yet to come, so maybe I can salvage the 6 reamining chapters.

  6. Posted by Matt Waymeyer on January 28, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Scott, speaking of timing being off, did you see that Favre interception on Sunday? It was a thing of beauty.

  7. Posted by Caleb Kolstad on January 28, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    Favre’s INT was beautiful! Watching him get knocked around was fun too.

  8. Posted by Scott Christensen on January 28, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    If he quits now he will have nightmares the rest of his life. He was coming close to ending his career like Elway but I think he just missed his only chance. In a way, I really felt sorry for him. 8 yards and he’d probably be in the Super Bowl. I doubt the Vikings will get that far again anytime soon with or without him.

  9. I think the natural tendency is to try and preach narrative like the epistles. They teach us well at seminary how to exegete but I think a downfall is in the homiletical area. (I guess most of this needs to be worked out in the actual doing of preaching, poor congregations :–) ) I think too many men treat narrative as a springboard to teaching systematic theologies. A great example is John 3, Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus. Too often I have heard guys make this text say far more than it does by forgetting who Jesus was talking to and how shocking what Jesus said would have been to Nicodemus.

    By the way, I found “The Word Made Fresh” by Davis to be very helpful to prime teh pump on NT teaching even though it is for OT.

    Thanks for undertaking this series.

  10. Hayden,

    I really like a lot of what I found in Davis’s The Word Became Fresh. In fact that is one that I had in mind when I referenced helpful books on preaching OT narrative. I think the homiletics is a major issue for many guys as well.

    We have these little sayings that have been put into our minds which, I believe, are not always correct. How many times have you heard, “preaching is not giving a running commentary”? Well in a major way that is true but it’s not as air-tight as some may think. Also, I’m not convinced that the way many outline an epistle is the best way to outline a narrative. We’ll talk about all of this.


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