Edited by Mike Graves and David J. Schlafer
St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2008. Softcover, 244 pages.
Eugene Lowry is a gifted preacher and teacher who has influenced the homiletical world in recent years through his work on narrative preaching. To honor Lowry, a team of homiletics professors have contributed essays to an interesting collection, What’s the Shape of Narrative Preaching? dealing with the past, present and future of narrative preaching.
Those interested in the art and craft of preaching will enjoy this volume if only for its helpful summary about how the emphasis on narrative has come to be such a dominant part of the preaching literature over the past three decades. The discussion starts with Charles Rice’s “More-or-Less Historical Account of the Fairly Recent History of Narrative Preaching” (my personal nominee for chapter title of the year), and runs through many subsequent essays.
Authors include a “who’s who” of well-known mainline homileticians, including Fred Craddock, David Buttrick, Thomas Long, Thomas Troeger, Frank Thomas, Barbara Lundblad and others. (It is a shame that such collections typically fail to include any perspective from among evangelical homileticians, where writers such as Haddon Robinson, Calvin Miller and others have contributed much to the discussion of narrative in preaching.)
Among my favorite contributions is Fred Craddock’s discussion of how preaching can be done in an age when the “metanarrative” seems to be rejected (which includes some interesting observations about the difference between story and narrative-a distinction not always observed in discussions of preaching).
I also enjoyed Tom Long’s analysis of the tension between Lowry’s narrative and the example of Methodist mega-church pastor Adam Hamilton as an example of the return of a more didactic and episodic model to the contemporary pulpit. Long notes, “Ironically, if we take away the fancy computer-fueled technology and the dazzling images appearing on the screen, Hamilton’s homiletical approach is straight out of the 1950s. How ironic that after nearly 50 years of our rejoicing over the death of the didactic sermon, ‘it’s ba-a-a-a-ck.’ Only now, instead of three points and a poem, it’s six points and a video clip.”
Like any such collection, the essays are of varying quality and value, but overall the student of preaching will find this volume to be interesting and a helpful reminder of where a portion of the homiletical world has been moving in recent years.

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What’s the Shape of Narrative Preaching? is a compilation of contemporary homiletical essays honoring Eugene Lowry. Contributors include Ron Allen, Fred Craddock, David Buttrick, Tom Long, Frank Thomas and others. Readers will discover numerous insights, examining various forms of narrative preaching, although most voices are from mainline churches. For seminary students as much as seasoned ministers, this volume studies the storyline style of the Bible and takes present readers through the past and into the future of the potential impact narrative preaching could have on congregations.

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