Multiple Story Structure
In this structure, the sermon communicates a central teaching or experience for the hearers by offering a series of stories that have been strategically placed next to one another to form the sermon. The strategic placement of the stories allows them to interact with one another, reinforcing experiences or themes for the hearers (e.g., a contemporary story introduces the hearers to an experience that is then repeated in the biblical story) or qualifying these experiences or themes (e.g., a biblical story might call into question the “resolution” of a contemporary story and thereby invite the hearers into further consideration). The multiple-story structure has two primary challenges for the preacher: the way each story is told and the way in which the stories are linked to one another.
In telling each story, the preacher seeks to maintain a specific and strategic focus in experience or thought for the hearers. Each story has the potential to distract the hearers from the intended experience or theme of the sermon. Therefore, the preacher uses narrative techniques (e.g., a refrain) to implicitly direct the experience of the hearers within the telling of the story. Also, such direction can be explicit as expository material is used to clarify the meaning of the story (e.g., “the reason I tell this story is that . . .”).
As the preacher moves from story to story, he needs to be aware of the experiential or logical connection that holds the stories together (e.g., the first story raises a problem for which the second story provides a solution). Multiple story sermons often have an unstated propositional structure (e.g., the first two stories depict two ways of encountering Jesus and the third story contrasts this with a depiction of how Jesus encounters us). Sometimes the preacher uses expository material to clarify these connections for the hearers.
A Multiple Story sermon by David Schmitt preached in Chapel at Concordia Seminary on May 5, 2010: [audio: http://deimos3.apple.com/WebObjects/Core.woa/FeedEnclosure/csl-public-dz.6769734749.06769734751.6769735265/enclosure.mp3]
© 2011 David Schmitt. All rights reserved.