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Stories Are for Adults (part 2)

Equipping preachers to communicate biblical narratives to adult audiences

This is a two-part article. In part one, Edwards explained the importance of story-shaping sermons and introduced the first two phases of this homiletical tool.

We learn something about God and how to live in response to him when we understand a biblical story.

3. Understanding what the biblical character decided and why they made that choice

At this point, you are in the winter of the biblical story. Things have become unbearable and the character has chosen to act. You are at the bottom of the mono-mythic circle, the climax of the emotion. Here you are looking for the biblical character's psychological motivation. What would have made this decision difficult?

• When did the character finally choose to act?
• Why not earlier or later?
• What decision did the character make?
• Why did the character finally choose to act?
• What factors motivated the character to act the way that he or she did (social, physical, spiritual, and so on)?

4. Emotional identification with the consequences the biblical character faced

In the fourth phase, the diagram above curves upward. It assumes you are preaching a biblical story with a happy ending. These comedic stories are best used to show audiences how godly decisions result in restored lives.

But while many biblical stories end positively, like Daniel's, this is not universally true. Characters like Samson, Saul, and Absalom did not make God-honoring decisions. The lesson of their lives is negative. We are not to imitate their decisions.

Regardless of whether the biblical narrative you are preaching ends on an up or a down, however, help your congregation slip into the sandals of the biblical character who made the decision. God-honoring decisions have a real and often immediate impact upon the life story of the decision maker. Allow your congregation to see this.

• What happened to the character when the choice was made?
• What happened to those around the character (friends, family, members of the community)?
• Have you ever faced or made a similar decision to the biblical character? Did you face similar consequences? Why?
• Would the consequences experienced by the biblical character likely follow a similar decision today? Why?

5. Deciding whether to emulate or avoid choices made by the biblical characters

Let your congregation have a good look at the benefits of God-honoring choices. Allow them to gaze on the ripple effect that those decisions had on their family, friends, and community and then bring them to the point of decision. Exhort your congregation to learn from the mistakes and successes of the heroes of Scripture.

• What is holding you back from making a God-honoring decision today?
• What are the pressures you face to imitate or reject the decision of the biblical character?
• How will your life be changed by your choice?
• How would the stories of others (family, friends, church community) respond to and be affected by your decision to imitate the biblical character?

6. Altering behavior in accordance with the decision

As a caring pastor, you know many of the issues with which the people in your congregation are struggling. Give them specific examples of what the application of this passage might look like in their lives. Concretely outline how their actions might be different as a result of their choice. Challenge them to implement the lessons from this text into their lives immediately and to tell someone about their decision to do so.

The story-shaping sermon form does not make six different points. It proceeds through six stages to make sure the listeners understand the single theological point of the narrative passage, and how that point influences the life story of the listener. As you make your way through the sermon, you will weave in and out of the ancient and modern worlds, explaining the text so that your listeners appreciate the depth of the problem the biblical protagonist faced, and explaining how your listeners will face very similar tensions in their lives. You will be able to stitch these worlds together into a seamless and unified sermon.

Kent Edwards is professor of preaching and leadership, and director of the doctor of ministry program at Biola University in La Mirada, California, and author of Deep Preaching (B&H).

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