Rick Warren talks about preaching for “life change.” Others speak of “transformational” preaching. The goal of every preacher I know is to bring an effective message, engaging the worshippers and leading them to a new encounter with God. It’s the “how-to” part of preaching that is hard, however. But a book by Joel Green and Michael Pasquarello, both of Asbury Seminary, offer a helpful perspective. The title is Narrative Reading, Narrative Preaching, and this short book provides an effective approach to the pastor’s reading and preaching of Scripture.
The authors note, “For many, unfortunately, the church has come to be perceived as a religious institution of our making, an organization that serves as little more than a sponsor for religious meetings and activities, a vendor of products and services that facilitate individual spiritual experiences and growth.”
What they mean by that statement is what you hear after worship from your members. Mine usually say one of two things:
- “Pastor, I really worshipped today. That story you told about the (fill in the blank here with your favorite heart-rending story) made me cry. I really feel like I’ve been to church today.”
- “Didn’t get much out of the sermon today, preacher. That whole historical thing is lost on me. Give me a good heart-rending story anytime.'”
Okay, so I’m exaggerating slightly here, but only slightly. But what if our preaching actually puts us in the story God is telling? Rather than trying to make the Bible interesting or relevant, suppose our members could put themselves into the story of God at work. Green and Pasquarello say then the question is not, Did I enjoy the sermon? but “What is the story doing to change our thinking, willing, and living as God’s people?”
They go on to say that “…because we live in a world where the God of Israel…is busily at work making good on his promises…” we see things through the lens of the whole Biblical story. Once we find our place in that story, then preaching becomes anticipation, adventure, hope, and promise. That’s what I want my preaching to do. I want to tell the old, old story about God at work in this brave new world in which we live now. If we and our members can believe that God is at work, then watch out, nothing will ever be the same. That’s life change!