Yesterday we discussed the power of story. Today we consider the pitfalls we must avoid in order to preach with power. Too many preachers miss these vital skills necessary to preach the narrative portions of the scripture:
1. They don’t tell the story!
They refer to it, they draw lessons from it, they theologize all over it, but they omit to actually tell the story. Big oops! The story is not there to be exhibit A in your demonstration of your theological acumen. The story is there to change lives, so tell it!
2. They don’t tell it well.
I don’t like adding to the sin lists already in existence, but making God’s Word boring or telling a story poorly must surely qualify as a transgression or iniquity on some level. God has given us everything necessary for a compelling message – tension, characters, movement, progression, illustrative materials, interest, etc. To tell it poorly is to miss an open goal with the ball placed carefully at our feet and thirty minutes to take a shot!
3. They think their thoughts are better than God’s inspired text.
I’ve blogged before about the nightmare I suffered when a preacher read the story of Jesus turning water into wine, then said, “you know the story, so I won’t tell it again…” then proceeded to offer us his fanciful imposition of a theological superstructure all over the text. The text is inspired, it is great, God is a great communicator (so please don’t think God is desperate for you to add a good dose of your ideas to His – please preach the Word!)
4. They spiritualise details into new-fangled meanings.
Suddenly listeners start thinking to themselves, “I never would have seen that!” or “I never would have made that connection – the donkey represents midweek ministries, brilliant!” Actually, they never would have seen it without you, not because you are God’s gift to the church, but because your fanciful insertion simply isn’t there. Preach the text in such a way as to honour it, not abuse it. And can I be provocative? Sometimes people force Christ into passages in ways that seem to undermine the whole richness of the text in its context – just because it is Christ doesn’t make it right.
5. They don’t let every detail feed into the powerful point of the main idea.
Every detail counts, but it counts as part of the writer’s strategy to communicate the main point of the story. A story doesn’t make lots of points, it makes one point. Develop a sensitivity to the role of details in the communication of the single plot point.