5 Tips to Preaching Narrative Passages

One of the hardest things to do is to preach through Biblical Narratives. There are several reasons why it is so difficult. First it is usually cumbersome to tell a long story concisely. Any story worth telling takes a certain rhythm and timing and with time constraints in a message you have to be careful with every minute you have in front of your audience. Secondly stories are often easy to misunderstand. Many times trying to bridge the cultural divide of previous millennia is difficult to do in a world that is Western and Post Modern.  Here are several methods I use to bring a Narrative Passage of scripture to life.

1. Let the text speak for itself.

It is tempting to gloss over the scriptures because you think that people might be bored if they have to hear you read a long section of scripture. As a result, paraphrasing and summarizing the scripture seems like an attractive option. I have found that this is a failed tactic. The scripture is usually more concise at telling the story than me trying to paraphrase it. If the text is too long, break it up and read it piece by piece and use your breaks in reading as places to teach from. Pausing to explain confusing passages in the text while teaching it is a helpful way to teach the passage as well as explaining it.

2. Put yourself in the Character’s shoes

It is easy to miss the emotional content of a passage of scripture. This may be because the passage of scripture is really familiar or because it is very different than the culture you are currently in.To avoid this, I ask myself in sermon prep, “what would it feel like to go through this situation?” I also ask the audience the same question when I teach. Seeing the situation through the characters eyes brings a visceral element to your teaching. If they can feel the emotions of the Characters in your sermon they will identify with the truth you are teaching.

3. Interpret it with Correct Hermeneutics

Teaching a narrative is very different than teaching a Pauline letter. Something to remember is that narrative passages are usually descriptive not prescriptive. That means that they usually describe God’s truth and how people interact with revelation instead of being a list of things they need to do or know. Teaching your audience about it being prescriptive or descriptive will really help them understand the scriptures better.

4. Translate the story to today.

Application of a text is the most difficult and important step of any sermon. How do you make the message relatable to where people are currently living? The best tools I have found is to ask questions and paint scenarios. Ask open ended questions about how to deal with the content. This allows space for the Holy Spirit to speak into people’s lives and convict them of sin. Painting scenarios is an art. You have to hit different situations that people may currently be experiencing. It is important to make scenarios realistic but still vague enough for people to find themselves in them. For example if I was teaching a sermon on Esther 4 (which I currently am) I would say something like, “Maybe you are someone like Esther who is struggling with being bold. You are in a place where you need to speak out but you are afraid. You dont know what to do about it. What you need to consider is that God wants to use you and the only thing keeping you from seeing God use you is that first step of courage.”

5. Tie the story to the gospel

We are to be people who point others to Jesus and what he has done for us in every aspect of our lives. It is the same thing with preaching. If we preach a good moral message with practical points but dont point people toward Jesus then we have failed. I think it is really important to bring the gospel to bear on every aspect of our lives. So I try to tie the gospel message to every sermon. It may not lead to an altar call every week but it should point people to knowing and trusting Jesus with their lives.

The best way to point people to the gospel when teaching a narrative passage is to bring passages of Jesus’ teaching or the New Testament as a lens that you use to interpret and apply the text you are teaching. Letting Jesus speak through your message is really powerful. I find that it t allows people to get to know his voice and hear his teachings as well as see the Bible as being a book that is united in its message.

I hope this is helpful. Please ask any questions in the comments.