Some thoughts on preaching longer (especially narrative) portions of Scripture

I’m not an expert on this by any means. Though I’ve been preaching for years, I think I’m only just now getting the hang of this while going through John’s Gospel (and it took me until John chapter 8 to get into the groove). This past Sunday I preached from Job chapters 1-3 and I could tell that I had grown in this area. Here are some things I’ve discovered that help.

1. Have a clearly defined purpose statement/proposition/Fallen Condition Focus/Big Idea.

Whatever you were trained to call it, have one and use it. This is one thing I have learned to do in John that has helped better communicate the text. This is also the one thing I would have done better this past Sunday. I communicated the truth of the text, but if I had it to do over again, I would have spent a little more time on this and made it more memorable so that people would remember it the next time they read that passage.

2. Don’t spend too much time talking about structure, background etc.

It’s tempting because as students of Scripture that stuff fascinates us. But your purpose in preaching is to communicate the message of the text. If I were teaching through Job in a Bible study or Bible class I would lay out the structure and explain how we know that Job lived during the time of the patriarchs and other juicy and neat bits of info. I don’t have that kind of time on Sunday mornings so I give only the information that is relevant to the communication of the main point of the text. This leads me to my third point.

3. Don’t preach the outline or the structure, tell the story!

One of my homiletics instructors, Dr. Fong, pointed out that if you wanted to tell a story or a joke, you wouldn’t begin with an outline. Instead, you’d have the punch line or plot twist in mind and you’d work toward that. Preaching from narrative literature must be done the same way.

Remember that God chose to communicate this truth via story so you can’t just decide it will be better to throw the story out and communicate the truth deductively or in some other way.

 4. Don’t forget to point people to the text.

I marked the verses in the text that were especially important or from which I was making a point or drawing an application. As I told the story I stopped when the narrative got to that point and I pointed that verse out and made the point or the application before transitioning back to the story and moving on.

I’m a big believer in always bringing your Bible to the pulpit and making a point of reading from it, even if you can quote the text or are telling a story. You want the listeners to understand and make the connection that you are preaching the Word,not just your thoughts from the Word or based on the Word. This doesn’t happen unless you make that clear for them and help them make the connection.


These are just some thoughts that have helped me. I share them with you in the hopes that you won’t have to work these things out the hard way (like I did) but can get right down to feeding your people on God’s Word.


About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
This entry was posted in Church Ministry, Pastoral Ministry, preaching and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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