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.

1st day in Tel Aviv

Hey everybody!
This Bobby and it’s my first time blogging. On top of that I’m doing this all from an iPhone, so please give me grace because there will be spelling and grammatical error. Today was a pivotal day in our trip. We left Jerusalem and traveled to Tel Aviv. The Jerusalem chapter was a pilgrimage and also training. We were coached on how to evangelize, but also being in the place where God walked this earth was inspiration in itself. Two nights ago we saw a sunset from the Mount of Olives that was miraculous to see.  The sky turned blood red and it was as if Jesus’ blood was blanketing the same city where it was shed for our sins. In short, seeing these places is the ultimate spiritual awakening and we are all thankful for all of the help we received to go here.

So this morning we left for Tel Aviv, the second chapter of this trip, where we will be sharing the gospel.  Ofcourse there are forces against us, and we were delayed about 1 1/2 hours due to a slight inconvenience at Austrian Hospice, our hotel. Although we were delayed our spirits were not diminished and went to Tel Aviv knowing that God is with us.  So we arrived in Tel Aviv safely, and after checking in and having lunch we went to a busy marketplace and prayed before we left to meet people in the streets. As we prayed in a circle, some orthodox Jewish people surrounded us (about five). They would not dare physically harm us in such a populated place, but they tried to intimidate us with their presence. We stood our ground, and finished our prayer without haste and with confidence in God our protector.

Despite these things against, we all have testimony and that God came here before us, and pointed us to people whom He is trying to reach. Rebecca and I met a young woman whom is Jewish and from Michigan, ironically. She has been strongly surrounded with the Jewish faith but yearning for more. She felt something missing in her life. She told us that she’s been wanting to hear more about Christ, but she’s been too naive to actually look for herself. So we came to her with the Word, and she graciously listened to it and accepted a new testament. We could see the joy and love in her eyes. I believe her spirit truly was awakened in that moment.  Then there was Moti. He is in his 30s, homosexual, and believes in a Creator and does not associate himself with any faith. Yet, he heard the Good News that all fall short and will sin, no one is perfect, and that Jesus in His love for us died for us.  That is the concept that was tugging at his heart, love. He gladly gave us his information so that our contact here can mail him a book about Jesus fulfilling the Messianic prophecies.  Then there was Maya, the store owner who does not believe in anything, but heard the Good News and whatever door she had on her heart was finally being opened up. She thanked us for stopping to talk with her.  So this is the testimony of us on this trip. We were rejected plenty of times, but only if we reached one soul our journey is fulfilled. But today God used us to reach atleast 10. Pray for those individuals that we came into contact with. Pray that they accept Christ and grow in Him, especially because they live in a land where it is challenging to do so. Thank you and God bless.

Bobby

Life on the Biblical “Times Square”

Hello all. So we just finished our second full day here in Jerusalem. What an amazing place. One thing that really took me back was the number of different people groups that are here. This is truly a melting pot – Northern, Southern, and Central Europeans are all over this city too along with the Jews and Arabs. We have met some Americans here as well. There’s such a bond when you see people in a foreign land that you have something in common with. I can only imagine how Jesus felt when he was here. He was so relational to the people that he interacted with. I guess I’d have to say that’s one (of the many) things that God has been putting on this teams’ heart – to be relational with the people we encounter so that we may be Jesus to those that don’t know Him.

One thing you can pray for us about is that God helps us do just that. We need to find common ground with the people we’ll encounter so that they’ll be more receptive to our message – that Jesus is the Son of God and that He saves! Being in Jerusalem can be overwhelming in many aspects: cultural, religious, and even the heat. Despite these things, we definitely know that God brought us here for a reason.

As you’ve probably already read, we’re staying in an incredible place on the Via Dolorosa where Jesus walked on His way to be crucified. Also close to us is the Dome of the Rock, which is an absolutely gorgeous building, but is also a spiritually dark place. By seeing such a building, I can’t help but think of what a stronghold this place is for the devil. We’ve been to some “significant” spiritual places while we’ve been here, but honestly, the spirit of some of those places was pretty dark. I can’t think of a better way for the enemy to take ahold of people than by disguising himself in “holy” places and leading people astray in false beliefs under the guise of “religion.” Please pray against this.

On a lighter note, we went to the Garden of Gethsemane and once again up the Mount of Olives. The garden was truly peaceful and had olive trees that were 2000 years old. I could see why Jesus would go to such a place when going through so much mental and emotional torment before being crucified. Praying there was truly an amazing experience.

Tomorrow – Tel Aviv! And we start doing street evangelism. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers, and we’ll keep you all updated on how the evangelism goes.

– Jeff