In the last decade, the preaching of the Romanian Baptist Church changed considerably. From the traditional and classical three points sermons, preachers changed to narrative preaching. I spotted that change tried to apply it to my sermons but I found it harder. Now, Lowry helped me see the benefits and the strong points of narrative preaching and offered me a method. What helped me is the fact that he makes good use of other disciplines (linguistics, film, art) to draw out the efficacy of this form of communication.
Eugene Lowry designed the book in three sections. In the first section he makes the case for narrative preaching. Then he says that each sermon ought to begin with the human dilemma, then it should be diagnosed, then the sermonic idea should come as it intersects with the gospel answer. Lowry believes that the sermon will best hold the attention of the hearer if you proceed inductively and do not resolve the tension until the end. The narrative approach involves five movements 1) upsetting the equilibrium 2) analyzing/complicating the discrepancy 3) hinting at clue toward resolution 4) experiencing the gospel 5) anticipating the consequences/future. This is conceptually rendered by a line that curves downward, reaches bottom, makes a decisive and sharp looping turn upwards and forward, reintersects the original downward curve and carries upward and forward. Lowry takes us through these five stages of the Homiletical plot and makes a convincing case why we ought to make our sermons compelling. He is realistic, though, he knows that preachers cannot weave a thriller every Sunday, but he does give us the way in which we can plot out the sermon in a way that will intersect with the lives of our listeners.
To exemplify, he compares the sermon to a “Columbo episode” and he also discusses how the movie “High Noon” holds the viewer in tension until the end, and he wants preachers to follow this method.
I agree that this is a valuable way to preach, and there is a real need for preachers to realize that this is the only way they can draw the attention of 21st century listeners. Yet it should also be stated that there are times and places and passages where the deductive method can be effective. Also I believe that some analytical and structural minds would be more challenged with an outlined sermon. Still, I think that Lowry’s book explained to me how to make my sermons interesting, Biblical, relevant, specific and memorable, enabling me to make my style more effective.