Preaching narrative Expository Messages
There is an increasing argument (in some circles) that the so-called ‘moderns’ of the last century responded well to more ‘concrete’ biblical messages (on passages like the Epistles, for instance). Whereas, the postmodern mindset responds far better to the story telling approach to biblical preaching.
Certainly, when we look at the NT we find little evidence for a set pattern of preaching. Indeed, the whole idea of the NT ‘pulpit monologue’ has scant evidence full stop. The Bible is full of wonderful ‘true’ stories (I tell my girls the difference between a Bible story and Cinderella – one is made up for our entertainment and the other is true and has been written for our spiritual benefit).
Now, I like to think of Bible teaching as a plate of food. Narrative is one food group. As are, theological, doctrinal, poetic, wisdom, historical, literal and metaphorical genres. Because I want my people to have a healthy, nutritious and balanced diet, I seek, over the course of a year, to educate their palate across the full range. Otherwise, (in my opinion) over fascination with one type of literature inevitably leads to spiritual malnutrition. Telling stories is all well and good but the Bible is a big book!
Often, people will remark: ‘I heard you preached for 40 minutes on Sunday. How did your people handle that? Implying what exactly? Usually, I will shrug and respond: ‘Fine, thanks’. It’s not as if we’re reaching out to monkey’s here in Niddrie. Enough of the patronising drivel that seems to suggest that because a person didn’t finish their education they are unable to listen well. I have heard all the stories and read all the reports that talk about the difference between visual and physical stimulation blah blah blah.
In my experience, we open the Word and we bring it to bear in people’s lives. The Bible is the Word of God. It is alive. It is sharper than a double-edged sword. The problem is that it is usually wielded by half-wits who don’t know a sword from a sausage. The problem isn’t the length of the message it is the person stood giving it. People are able to listen to, and retain, far more than we give them credit for. True, they will forget an awful lot. But good, systematic, expository preaching should train our people not only to read the scriptures well but to listen well. We can’t go wrong if we preach the whole counsel of God to our people. It might hurt at first. Like a muscle that hasn’t been used for a while. But we are remarkably adaptable creatures and before long it will become almost second nature.
The mark of a healthy church plant – indeed any church that takes the scriptures seriously – is good, solid, applied, expository preaching that mixes and matches all of it’s genres and inspires its people to get into the Word for themselves.