Guide for narrative preaching is issued

Monday, May 1, 2006

"The Old, Old Story: A Guide for Narrative Preaching"; by Joe H. Cothen; non-fiction; hardbound; 191 pages; Pelican Publishing, Gretna, La.

There are many types of preachers, and many types of preaching styles. There are intellectual preachers who analyze the original language and study the work of other scholars. Then there are those who amuse with the joke of the day before telling a few homilies.

And in this time of continually-accelerating technological change, there are those who pull out the PowerPoint and CD videos for visually-aided presentations that as often as not seem to be more entertaining than sermonizing.

Author Cohen appears to sympathize with such practices. He understands the pressures on preachers to function as social workers and counselors, costing much time that could be used in sermon preparation.

This is the fifth book by Cothen which Pelican Publishing has produced, and in it Cothen details the basic ingredients he has utilized for 50 years to create and deliver sermons that share the character, function and value of the word of God with a congregation.

That, after all, is -- or should be -- the essential purpose of any Christian preacher.

The narrative approach is demanding, requiring a love for the Bible, a willingness to read and study, a discipline in organizing what one learns and one's insights, a responsible imagination, courage to be different, and faith both in the Holy Spirit and in the ability of the audience to follow a sermon.

That last point is certainly appreciated by this reviewer. Please don't dumb it down for me, but challenge my thinking.

Rather than basing sermons on contemporary events, the narrative approach is based on the stories found in the Bible, and how the characters succeeded and failed. That human nature, unlike technology and its trappings, is a constant which can translate to all people.

Further, because the stories cover the gamut of human behavior, from Jezebel to Jesus, the narrative approach offers variety.

The bulk of the book contains examples -- sermon outlines of a sort. It is easy to see how the various narratives can be used for a single, over-arching sermon, or a more in-depth series of sermons.

The book is useful for both experienced preachers wishing to recapture the excitement of communicating the Christian Method, as well as those preachers just starting out.

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