- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Zondervan; Hardcover edition (August 29, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780310263098
- ISBN-13: 978-0310263098
- ASIN: 0310263093
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 16 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #211,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Effective First-Person Biblical Preaching: The Steps from Text to Narrative Sermon Paperback – August 29, 2005
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'A great resource if you're considering a new way of preaching.' (YouthWorker Journal)
'Not only details the means of preparation for first-person sermons, but for narrative sermons of every description.' -- Kenton C. Anderson
'What a refreshing new marriage of biblical authority and compelling homiletics!' -- Calvin Miller
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This is a primer for anyone who have never taken into consideration the nature of narrative literature in their preaching. After reading this and other books recently for my Dmin degree, I realize I have preached narrative passages like epistles in the past.
Second, this book is not just on first person preaching but on narrative preaching.
Edwards starts in chapter one arguing for first-person preaching by giving cultural, educational, theological reasons, and emotional reasons. The eight ways in which people process information was insightful in seeing how this type of sermon can engage audiences who have different learning preferences. In chapter three, “Determining The Story's Structure: Step 3,” the Mono-Mythic Cycle gave me a greater awareness of the structure of stories and plot development. In chapter four, “What Comes Next? Steps 4 through 8,” Edwards helps the reader analyze the different parts that make up a story. I have preached through several narrative sections in over twenty five years of ministry and I now see that I could have developed more thoroughly the characters, their interaction, and their inner life. Step six, “State the Big Idea of the Narrative” is also a helpful section. With the help of reading this book and some others recently, I now see that my big ideas in ht past have been exegetical ideas. Since the reading I am simplifying my big idea down to a homiletical and then a preaching idea. The four questions in the section entitled, “Double check your big idea,” are helpful, but I would add, “does your big idea fit through the filter of both biblical and systematic theology.” I think it is helpful for people to see and understand the difference between the two disciplines. Lastly, “Step 8 Make the application,” Edwards drives home the point that narrative has one idea and therefore must be organized around that one controlling idea to achieve a single purpose in the lives of the listener. The following chapter, “Taking the First Steps in the Homiletical Task” helps the preacher identify and develop a protagonist which requires one to get into the mind of the character. Although one can create their own character that listeners can identify with, it is preferable to stay with biblical characters. With the lack of biblical illiteracy in the church it seems best to stay as true to the story as possible. Every good story must not only have a protagonist but also a rival, an antagonist, so the author gives three helpful principles for effective antagonists. Antagonists are more powerful than the protagonist, they are people, and they they are designed for their protagonists. Moving to chapter six, “Completing the Homiletical Task,” Edwards informs us that characters need to be brought to life by means of a journey of faith that supports and brings home the big idea of the story. Then in step 6, “Plotting the action,” we are told that the plot must crown the big idea in such a way that everything else is subservient to this big idea. Edwards reminds us that this type of preaching is not a lecture so the preacher must increase tension in the story line by introducing conflict but not give too much information nor long speeches; truth is displayed in the story and not in explicitly in teaching it. When it comes to writing the sermon manuscript, Step 9, the authors suggests that the preacher present the preaching idea as forcefully and clearly as possible so as to leave no room for misunderstanding. After reading “Step 12 Block your sermon” I hope to do some more reading on blocking to better understand it. Chapter seven, “Practical Questions about First-Person Preaching,” offers practical suggestions to those who have never preached a first-person sermon. The easiest and simplest way to introduce this type of preaching is morphing into first-person preaching. In the last chapter of the book, “Alternatives to First-Person Preaching” Edwards gives several other options to narrative preaching in addition to first-person preaching. The second appendix has helpful worksheets; I only wish they were available in PDF form!
Having laid the philosophical basis for his position, Edwards enumerates the exegetical steps one must take in order to preach narrative, as well as the homiletical process of preparing a first-person narrative sermon. The book ends with a couple of chapters that answer common questions and provide some alternatives to first-person preaching. The appendices contain three sample sermons and five worksheets to aid in the process.
Edwards makes an impassioned case for first-person narrative preaching. Yet I came away less than sanguine about the approach. I have a difficult time with the level of creativity that is inherent to this type of preaching, particularly when it comes to altering the biblical plot, creating point-of-view characters out of thin air, and portraying the emotions or psychology of characters (which Scripture seldom does). For instance, Edwards says, "If the plot you are planning to preach is identical to the plot used by the biblical writer, you can be fairly sure that you need to do some more work on your plot. Only on very rare occasions should you simply `rerun the story.' Almost always it should be modified" (p.96). Statements like that make me squirm a bit. If it is not in the Bible or at least a reasonable inference from the Bible, then I am uncomfortable with making it up. How do I know whether I am being faithful to the actual events or importing my own ideas? If the biblical character whom I am portraying witnessed my sermon, would he be saying, "No! That's not how it was at all!" or "You have me all wrong!" So I have some philosophical objections to first-person narrative preaching, at least as espoused by Edwards.
With that said, much of what Edwards advocates on the homiletical side still applies to third-person narrative preaching--an approach with which I am much more comfortable. Like the first-person approach, third-person narrative preaching involves: selecting the appropriate text; isolating the "big idea"; identifying the protagonist and antagonist; following the contours of the plot; etc. Done properly, it can heighten the sense of dramatic tension, although admittedly with less emotion than the first-person approach. But it sticks much closer to actual words of Scripture, which is a good thing.
So even though I am not crazy about first-person narrative preaching, I still recommend this book for those who are not familiar with the distinctives of preaching from narrative. You might also want to check out Steven Mathewson's book, The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative.