Book Review – What’s the Shape of Narrative Preaching?

What’s the Shape of Narrative Preaching: Essays in Honor of Eugene L. Lowry – Mike Gravies & David J. Schlafer, Editors

Chalice Press 2008


I’m catching up on reading I should have done in advance of my seminar last month on narrative preaching, facilitated by the Rev. Dr. David Schmitt.  This particular book is a collection of essays from a variety of academics on the topic of narrative preaching as revolutionized by Eugene L. Lowry’s 1980 book The Homiletical Plot: The Sermon as Narrative Art Form.  That book and scholar are the bases for this book, providing a variety of reflections on narrative preaching.

Overall, this book is undoubtedly great reading for the homiletical academic, someone who is given over to the formal study of homiletics as a field, and who can better appreciate the diversity of names and traditions that these essays refer to.  While I was taught about Lowry and his famous homiletical “Loop” in seminary homiletics class, that’s about the extent of my exposure to the academic field of homiletics.  

Some of the essays were very helpful and interesting despite being lost amidst the name-dropping.  Others less so.  For the average parish pastor and regular preacher, this book probably isn’t going to be overly helpful.  The few insights and ideas are largely dwarfed in the larger academic background.  

Hopefully the guy (or gal) who stands up in front of your congregation regularly to preach or give a message or share a story has had some guidance on how to do this.  Better yet, hopefully this guy (or gal) is continuing to seek out guidance on the subject.  Many people are coming to the recognition that in the push for changing liturgy and music and all sorts of other aspects of worship, preaching has been neglected.  Hopefully that is changing.  I wouldn’t recommend surprising your pastor with this book as a gift unless you know that they’re really into the academic field of homiletics.  

But I commend you for considering it!

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