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Storied Discourse Structures


These structures1 arise from the telling of a biblical story to communicate a central teaching or experience for the hearers.  In this case, the biblical story itself (and it could be only one among a sequence of stories) forms the structure of the sermon.  In integrating the biblical story into the sermon, the preacher will have basically two types of material:  the biblical story and excursions from that story.

The biblical story is a creative retelling of the biblical narrative.  Rather than approach the biblical narrative as an object of study (i.e., to be analyzed and used as a proof text in supporting teachings of the faith), the preacher proclaims the narrative in such a way that the hearers are witnesses to a real historical event. This retelling of the biblical story can be done in the third person or the first person.  Unfortunately, preachers often gravitate toward a first person account when a third person account can be just as effective if not more so.  Also, the biblical story can be retold in the time period of the text or in the present day with the use of dynamic equivalents.  The more familiar the hearers are with the biblical story, the easier it is for them to follow that story when told in the present day setting.

The excursions from the biblical story can involve the use of any type of material.  The preacher might offer other stories from contemporary life or explanation and careful consideration of what has just happened.  The preacher could incorporate an image or a quotation of a passage of Scripture.  What makes an excursion is not the nature of the material offered but the fact that this material is not a direct retelling of the biblical story but something else that the preacher is doing as he incorporates the biblical story into the fuller sermon.

Storied discourse structures include:

  1. For more information regarding these and other storied discourse designs, see Richard Jensen, Thinking in Story:  Preaching in a Post-literate Age (Lima, Ohio: CSS Publishing, 1995) and Eugene Lowry, How to Preach a Parable:  Designs for Narrative Sermons (Nashville: Abingdon, 1989). ↩︎