Preaching the Bible in a boring way—that’s just plain wrong. God’s Word is inerrant, inspiring, living, and breathing—and yet sometimes we preach it like it’s dead. We’re all guilty of this—be it from lack of preparation, distracted studying, or lack of personal transformation around the subject matter. This condition can happen to any sermon, but the most susceptible sermons are those we preach on narratives. Regardless of the reason, as preachers, we must find ways to declare God’s word in a vibrant, authentic, captivating way. I’ve learned to love preaching through Biblical narratives, and I would enjoy sharing some steps to help you breathe life into your sermon preparation and delivery for these stories.
Below are four steps to crafting a captivating story when preaching narratives.
1. Read the story patiently and carefully while preparing.
As a seminary trained, full-time pastor, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked away from my family devotion having to double check the Scriptures for details of a story. So many minor (yet incredible) details can easily be forgotten, and it’s important to truly study the narrative in order to share it in a captivating way.
The most minor details can be the most fascinating nuances of the story, and sharing them with precision can enthrall even the most apprehensive audience.
2. Consider the questions your audience will ask.
Context is critical. Not only of the Biblical context you’re studying, but the context in which you will preach the narrative matters for how you tell the story. Depending on the demographics of your listeners, the current news/political cycle, and the hot topic of social media in a given week, your audience’s ear may be tuned in differently from season to season.
Biblical principals don’t change, but our audiences always do. Think through challenges your church has faced in the previous week, questions they would ask if in a one-on-one conversation, and difficulties they may face in working through the narrative themselves. Remember, our ultimate goal isn’t to mesmerize our audience—it’s to develop a hunger for God’s Word within themselves and teach them how to satisfy their hunger in Him.
3. Paint the picture for your audience.
In preaching, there’s an element of selling the story to your audience. Why should the sweet 83-year-old grandmother of 13 care that Shamgar killed 600 Philistines with a bull prod (Judg 3:31)? And if you find a way to make her care, how in the world could you simultaneously make it applicable to a 22-year-old college graduate who is still trying to find himself? Bottom line—it’s the preacher’s job to bring the ancient narrative to relevance. In sales, the phrase is said this way, “Features tell. Benefits sell.” This means your audience doesn’t care as much about what happened as they do why it happened—especially how it relates to their own life.
If we’re not careful, we’ll become a fact-spewing-machine in regards to the details about the narrative. The truth is—no one is impressed with how well you parsed the Greek/Hebrew verb. Overly explaining the geography and contextual background isn’t necessarily helpful for anyone. There’s no test at the end of your sermon and certainly no exam at the end of the small group semester. The Bible isn’t boring—so let’s make sure we don’t represent it as such.
Tell the story as if you yourself had just lived it. Tell it as if your life depended on it.
4. Find the Gospel in the narrative.
There is no more captivating story in the history of mankind than the Gospel itself. One of the greatest mistakes we make is trying to make ourselves the hero of the passage. Though we’re almost always depicted, we’re rarely who we think we are. We always want to be the hero. But we’re never the hero. Show them the true hero—Jesus.
And this is great news. All the pressure is off of your shoulders. No frills, no thrills, no bells and whistles. Get to Jesus in every story, both Old and New Testament, and you will take a story that was in standard-definition on black-and-white television and add the greatest color, depth, and high-definition depiction your audience has ever experienced.
“As for Me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to Myself.” (John 12:32) Find Jesus in the narrative, lift Him up, and stand amazed at how He will draw people to Himself.
So don’t be afraid of the narrative—embrace it. Tell the captivating stories of Scripture knowing that Jesus is always the point. And if you find you’re still struggling to tell the stories in a captivating way, spend some time in children’s church. They’re a great audience to practice on, and you’ll get instant feedback!
Andrew Hale is the Executive Pastor at Parkview Church in Palm Coast, Florida.