Wednesday, February 24, 2010

First Person Narrative Preaching

This past Sunday I preached the three "Lost and Found" stories of Luke 15. A shepherd found the one sheep out of a hundred that had wandered away. A woman found her one coin out of ten that had been misplaced. And a father received back his one son who had left the family. The point of these stories is the joy that God has over sinners who repent. God's love for people is evident in these stories, especially when the context is viewed. Jesus told these stories to the Pharisees because they condemned him for spending time with undesirable people (tax collectors and sinners). Jesus told these stories in order to let the Pharisees know that these undesirable people are actually very desirable in God's eyes.

In order to communicate these stories I used a style of preaching called "First person narrative." This style is described by Haddon and Torrey Robinson in their book It's All In How You Tell It. This brief book recommends a technique that has been used by preachers for ages. The technique is simply becoming one of the characters in the story and telling the story from that perspective. For the three stories in Luke 15 I became a tax collector and came in and told the congregation what it was like for Jesus to stand up for me and tell the self-righteous Pharisees that I was valuable to God.

I began with a normal introduction. Then someone in the congregation came forward and read the text. While the verses were being read, I slipped out and got into costume (tunic and headpiece from a Christmas program shepherd's outfit- plus sandals). When the reading of the text was completed, I came in and introduced myself. Then I told the stories. I used several props for the stories. I had hidden a stuffed animal of a sheep, so when the shepherd found the sheep, I found that stuffed animal. I also used a broom and a flashlight to look for the lost coin. I found the lost coin on the floor about half way back in the sanctuary. After I told the stories, I left the sanctuary from the front (looking for Pastor Dave), removed the costume while circling around the outside of the church, and then re-entered as myself from the side. I then concluded the sermon by talking about the meaning of the stories and how they applied to our lives.

The reaction that I received from taking the position of a character in the story has been very favorable. I trust that the point was well-communicated. Though I don't see this as a normal way of delivering a sermon, I can see using this technique again in the future.


  1. wish I had video of it so I could post the part where you danced. As Tara would say....Quality! LOL

  2. The video would be AWESOME (because I'm guessing Dave dances like I do ;-)! I've done this before myself (as John the Baptist, as the High Priest for the Feast of Tabernacle, as the Rabbi at a circumcision where there was considerable audience participation...that one was rather "interesting", and as David Livingstone). I know some of these aren't clear in the text, but they certainly added some poignancy and memorability to the message. Not an all the time sort of thing, but definitely memorable and fun (who says we can't have fun in church). Thanks for the reminder to help as many as possible to better understand the good news!