Chapter 1, “A Likely Story: The Perils and Power of Narrative in Preaching” pp. 1-26.
Long begins with an illustration of a narrative sermon which failed to speak to his students of preaching (Long 2009, 1). This style of preaching, common for the past fifty years, may not be reaching modern audiences. Narrative preaching, centered around stories, replaced more didactic preaching in the 1950s (Long 2009, 2). The move largely emphasized drawing a congregation’s intuition into the sermon, as opposed to presenting a logical argument (Long 2009, 3). Citing Augustine, who depended on Cicero for the idea, Long urges a threefold purpose of a sermon: teaching, delighting, and persuading (Long 209, 5).
This move from didactic to narrative preaching has happened before, briefly in the early nineteenth century, then in the late nineteenth century (Long 2009, 6). Resistance to narrative preaching as too self-mediated always existed in conservative groups, but has now moved to more centrist groups (Long 2009, 9). The narrative sermons work best where there is an existing biblical culture, which may currently be lacking.
Long considers the work of Galen Shawson, a British philosopher, who concludes that while some people work well within a narrative framework, others do not (Long 2009, 10). Though the Bible communicates largely through narrative, stories, some people conceive of life in non-narrative ways (Long 2009, 11).
Long notes there is a continuum in preaching. Many preachers use narrative sermons which walk through a logical argument, while others use diachronic sermons in which the points can stand alone as narratives (Long 2009, 14).
Long brings two conclusions from his analysis. “First, we no longer live in a sleeping Christendom waiting only to be aroused and delighted by evocative stories” (Long 2009, 18). “But second, in the light of the vigorous critique of the sloppier kinds of narrative preaching, preachers do not need to abandon storytelling but to get theologically smarter and more ethically discerning in its practice” (Long 2009, 18). There are then four purposes for the use of narrative. First, it helps listeners make sense of doctrine in their lives (Long 2009, 18). Second, it helps the congregation form an identity around a unified message (Long 2009, 20). Third, it provides a means for remembering those who would otherwise be forgotten (Long 2009, 21). Finally, it may be used to draw people to Christ (Long 2009, 22).