Edwards, J. Kent. Effective First-Person Biblical Preaching: The Steps from Text to Narrative Sermon. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005.
Preaching and acting has an interesting connection. Preachers are not actors because our message is true and when it is practiced best, the preacher describes an actual commitment to a real God who is speaking through his Word in a real moment-in-time. There is no acting in it, though the communication skills of the actor might be helpful in the presentation. This, then, is the challenge of preaching narrative texts. How do we take the text seriously, not only for its propositional content, but also for its form of presentation without distancing ourselves from what we preach? How do we tell the story of Samson with a sense of immediacy and not be inauthentic?
In first-person preaching, the preacher enters into the story by personifying one of the characters, bringing truth to life by creating an experience of the text for contemporary listeners. It is a challenge, but Kent Edwards’ book can help. Edwards, following the well-established “big idea” approach of his mentor, Haddon Robinson, offers a step-by-step approach to developing first person sermons that can be appropriated and applied by contemporary listeners. In so doing, he helps us with narrative sermons and narrative biblical texts of every description. Bundled with the book is a very professional CD which has a video of Edwards’ Samson sermon.
This is a practical book, taking the preacher from the early exegetical steps all the way to the end of the process. There is advice here on everything from characterization, to manuscripting, to stage direction (blocking), to costuming. Some preachers will find the prospect intimidating, but even those who lack the dramatic skills required for this kind of presentation will still find value in the author’s instruction regarding the understanding and uses of biblical narrative. Chapter Eight, for instance, offers a number of alternatives for the effective and faithful preaching of the stories in the Bible.
This is a helpful book, well worth the investment of those who want to communicate the Bible not only for its ideas, but also through its form.
Excerpt: There is a sense in which a biblical sermon is like a cell phone call. In a biblical text, God is placing a call. He has a message he wants to communicate to his church. In order for the cell phone call to make it to its intended recipients, however, it must be successfully passed through a series of repeater stations. Preachers are like cell phone repeater stations. Our purpose is to pass on God’s message to its intended recipients without altering the message in any way. We are only successful when God’s voice is passed on to God’s people without any distortion of any kind. …
I do not preach first-person sermons in an effort to be cute or trendy. Nor am I overwhelmed by a desire to be relevant to our narrative-saturated culture. The primary reason I preach narrative passages of Scripture in a narrative style is to be faithful to the biblical text. I want to say what God said in the biblical text, and only what God said in the biblical text. I cannot be faithful to the meaning of the original text without being homiletically respectful of its genre.
The best way to preach the Bible’s narrative literature is by using a narrative homiletical form. First-person sermons are a legitimate narrative homiletical form. When you learn how to preach this type of sermon, you learn how to preach the stories of Scripture with great accuracy. You will also discover that just about everybody enjoys listening to them and that in the midst of their good time, your congregation is learning a tremendous amount of Bible. (20-21)
Table of Contents:
1. Why preach Expository First-Person Sermons?
Part One: Steps in the Exegetical Task
2. Beginning to Use the Narrative Exegetical Key
Step One: Adjust your interpretive paradigm
Step Two: Understand the larger context of the story you want to preach
3. Determining the Story’s Structure
Step Three: Determine the structure of your story.
4. What Comes Next?
Step Four: Analyze the characters
Step Five: Discover the setting of the story
Step Six: State the “big idea” of the narrative
Step Seven: Double-check your big idea
Step Eight: Make the application
Part Two: Steps in the Homiletical Task
5. Taking the First Steps in the homiletical Task
Step One: Select an appropriate text
Step Two: Ensure that you have identified the “big idea” of your narrative
Step Three: Develop the protagonist for your story
Step Four: Create your antagonist
6. Completing the Homiletical Task
Step Five: Set the story
Step Six: Plot the action
Step Seven: Determine the perspective
Step Eight: Create your lesser characters
Step Nine: Write the manuscript
Step Ten: Decide about props
Step Eleven: Refine your manuscript
Step Twelve: Block your sermon (optional)
Step Thirteen: Rehearse your sermon
Step Fourteen: Decide about costuming
Step Fifteen: Deliver your sermon
Part Three: Questions and Alternatives
7. Practical Questions about First-Person Preaching
8. Narrative Alternatives to First-Person Preaching
Appendix One: Examples of Narrative Preaching
1. Samson: The STrong Weak Man (Judges 13-16) by J. Kent Edwards
2. The Cripple’s Story (2 Samuel 1-9) by Don Sunukjian
3. Mary of Bethany (Mark 14:1-11) by Alice Matthews
Appendix Two: Implementation Worksheets