A Preacher’s Tale: Explorations in Narrative Preaching
Jon Russell, SCM Press (2018)
In his book Jon Russell delves into Narrative Preaching through a variety of styles, in order to achieve an immediacy which traditional preaching often lacks.
He explores a wide variety of bible passages, characters, and even on one occasion a song. With a number he achieves the heights of immediacy for which he is aiming, others however fall somewhat flat. What does come through in each and every sermon is Russell’s ability to tell a story. He can cleverly weave the tales from the biblical context in with snippets and stories from today’s culture.
The book is written for preachers who are looking at broadening their horizons in preaching and aims to help them see how to construct and write narrative sermons and the benefit of doing so.
Though my view of narrative preaching was based solely on first-person narratives, Russell won me over through powerful stories like ‘yearnings,’ his sermon from the book of Ezekiel, comparing Ezekiel’s (& God’s) yearning’s for the dispersed Israelites to the yearnings of beaten women for love. Along with his story-telling another of his strengths is the reflection that follows each sermon. He uses quotes from other theologians to reflecting on his writing. I find this approach very refreshing especially his honesty over his own mistakes.
As with all preachers, we all have sermons that don’t really work or that don’t connect with people. There are a couple in this book that I found it hard to relate to, but overall his hard work and talent was clear to see.
This book has widened my view of narrative sermons from a first-person narrative, to a plethora of styles. Russell finishes his book talking of Peter and the transfiguration ‘transfiguration means a change in the way you see things. Once he opens them again, Peter’s way of seeing Jesus will never be the same.’ Neither will my way of seeing Narrative sermons.
It is certainly a worthwhile read for anyone interested in preaching.
Reviewed by Esther Longe