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Telling God's Story: Narrative Preaching for Christian Formation [Paperback]

By John Wesley Wright (Author)
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Item description for Telling God's Story: Narrative Preaching for Christian Formation by John Wesley Wright...

Presents a new model of preaching that aims to connect the biblical text with a congregation so that they are formed into a true Christian community. Wright critically surveys current theories of preaching and the variety of hermeneutical practices, providing clear guidance and practical direction for faithful preaching.

Publishers Description
Here is Biblical narrative preaching that transforms. John W. Wright presents a new model of preaching that aims to connect the biblical text with a congregation so that they are formed into a true Christian community. Such formation calls for interpretative engagement with both the biblical narrative and the cultural narrative that shapes our society. Wright critically surveys current theories of preaching and the variety of hermeneutical practices, providing clear guidance and practical direction for faithful preaching.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: IVP Academic
Pages   166
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.93" Width: 6.08" Height: 0.61"
Weight:   0.6 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 16, 2007
Publisher   IVP-InterVarsity Press
ISBN  0830827404  
ISBN13  9780830827404  

Availability  124 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 22, 2017 09:57.
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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy > Pastoral Counseling
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy > Preaching
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy > Sermons
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Religion

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Reviews - What do customers think about Telling God's Story: Narrative Preaching for Christian Formation?

Effective Communication Skills Inclosed  Mar 1, 2010
A crushing blow to individualism.

The church should move from being a therapy session for individuals and become a peculiar people within society... A "people-group" that does not exist outside of culture, but witness to the grander story of God.

The question of the book becomes: How do you move as a church from being therapy to individuals, but translate people's lives into the biblical narrative to portray and live apart of the body of Christ? This book becomes more than a how-to of preaching, it becomes a life-changing calling for preachers to move their congregations into partakers of the biblical narrative.

The Eclipse of the Biblical Narrative, a movement looking at the role of narrative, is re-told by Wright to show how North American churches ended up preaching the individualism of Scripture. The church became a place for individuals to get away from the busyness of their week, the stress of the office - basically, the church became a therapeutic centre of individual needs. It was not a community, but a...

Help me overcome, help me move past... Help ME.

The body of Christ was now individual body parts all moving to their own individual needs. The solution became a new message to the people, a movement of sorts that takes away this individual mentality and moves towards community. After all, in community can we only help each other.

The movement starts by moving towards a tragedy, the tragedy of the cross. Tragedy brings enlightenment, understanding, a new narrative. Is that not what the cross accomplished? A brighter hope, a new horizon, and a new narrative to the lives of those partaking in it?

In the individual context of Scripture, the narrative becomes skewed.

The individual turns to scriptures for assurance that he or she really is living within this spiritual path that leads to individual eternal bliss in heaven.
- Wright on Frei

If that is what we are turning from, then what are we being turned to? Well, first we must realize that we are apart of an ongoing story - that starts with creation and will end with God's reign - but we are not there yet. Wright provides three turning points that we need to acknowledge in order to join the story: [1] Acknowledge the contemporary horizon (worldview) of a congregation as they have been formed by the culture around them
[2] An anchor to move horizontally around the contemporary horizon
[3] Head in a new direction

These three steps allow for a turn towards the wonderful good news of living amid God's story. I truly appreciate the fact that the author does go beyond providing the typical three-step solution, as he gives a whole chapter's worth of hands-on teaching examples of how to turn your congregation toward a worldview that does not separate them from culture, but allows them to be visible witnesses through their newfound ability to have a worldview that is considered peculiar. In a strange way, this moves the congregation into the status-quo, allowing for their narrative to lie outside the lies they are fed everyday.

As I finished the book, I began to see the point. The biblical narrative is not a how-to negotiate the so-called secular divide of personal life, or even how to live a cushy life. The biblical narrative is an awakening to become one of God's elect, to witness his love, as a partaker of God's creation and as a witness that may require an element of suffering. For me, this quote sums up the key focus of Wright's book:

The church does not exist so that individuals might seek intimacy with others, themselves of God. The church exists as a people, a distinct people, whose witness can bring opposition from the world through the fact of its nonconformity, but whose communal life provides concrete, embodied resources for support amid the resultant suffering.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone that does any form of teaching within the church. It gives a great formative history of the decline of teaching within the church, but it also provides examples that can help turn a congregation into strong witnesses of Christ's work. It may be heavy, but the rewards and resulting call to God's story are well worth it.
Takes Aim at Contemporary Preaching & Offers an Alternative Approach  Sep 18, 2008
Professor John Wright's book takes aim at Christian preaching in America. He diagnoses today's preaching as placating to the culture and as merely contributing toward a "value-added" culture rather than building the kingdom of God.

Wright states the problem with contemporary preaching: "Preaching has largely ceased to incorporate individuals into the concerns created by the Christian Scriptures. Instead, preaching has become the application of an individualistic, therapeutic biblical language to contemporary concerns or disembodied calls to social justice." (19)

He elaborates on the problem that he sees catering to a consumer-driven need for a therapeutic climate in church and the desire for preaching that affirms the individualistic self-actualization that our culture cherishes and pursues. He indicts pastors who weave the Biblical narrative into this false gospel of American culture. He writes about what he sees as a divorce between theology and preaching fueled by a mindset that diminishes the power of the gospel and seeks the approval of congregations more than the approval of God. Wright is no fan of American pastors, contemporary or past.

He calls contemporary preaching "comedic" in that it seeks to fuse the horizon of the biblical text into the preexisting horizon of the congregation. He contrasts this with what he prescribes and calls "tragic" preaching that demolishes the preexisting worldview of the congregation and its culturally-inspired spirituality and replaces it with a countercultural, truly Christian narrative that inspires repentance and conversion and leads to the development of a "peculiar people."

His book's goal is to help preachers learn how to develop a "tragic" homiletic that leads congregations into the Biblical narrative rather than affirming the cultural norms.

The two stories that have characterized American preaching since the founding of the country, according to Wright, have been an individualistic narrative and a narrative that exalts the nation as its object. Wright picks out a few preachers in American history to accuse of either emphasizing the individual at the expense of God's whole people or he accuses them of preaching a gospel that promotes the nation of America as the biblical "city on a hill" at the expense of God's kingdom. Both of these I think are over-generalized stereotypes that focus on an issue while dismissing the work of the Holy Spirit in these ministries. One person so labeled as what one would infer as a heretic is George Whitfield. He is accused by Wright of shifting the whole location of salvation "from God's action in Christ to the personal experience of the individual." (59) Wright disregards any fruit that Whitfield's ministry produce and does not consider that the Spirit may have been at work in his ministry that others have lauded over the ages. It also seems that Wright is ignoring the context in which Whitfield preached--mainly to those who were unchurched and unwelcome in existing churches. I wonder if Wright's indictment of Whitfield also carries over to Wesley--guilt by association. The treatment of Whitfield is indicative of a tone in this book that chastises all who have come before and all who have not adopted Wrights manner of preaching.

Similarly, Wright strongly opposes all notions that God might have inspired and honored the early Americans who longed and strived for America to be a place of God's Spirit and church. Sure they may have esteemed the new land too highly and become too nationalistic, but one cannot deny that God has used their efforts and prayers to advance the gospel both in and through America. Again Wright seems to imply that the Spirit has been absent from the continent and has finally come to him with this new revelation for how to preach.

This may sound harsh, so let me state that the positive writing of this book outweighs the negative. I think Wright is correct in his criticism of some preaching in America. Undoubtedly, the errors in preaching he cites are temptations for all pastors who become influenced by the culture and allow it to direct Biblical interpretation and hermeneutics. His exhortations are well suited for any who preach in America.

He provides several examples of sermons to illustrate the style and content of preaching he espouses in the book. These serve their purpose; however, they did not strike me as being in such contrast to much of the preaching I hear in the churches I attend; although, that is subjective on my part.

He promotes three congregational practices to support the biblical narrative and worldview. These are the Lord's Supper, forgiveness and reconciliation and caring for the needs of saints and hospitality offered to strangers. These he writes are appropriate and necessary for the church to become the people God desires. These unarguably are essential elements in any church and provide a larger context for the "tragic" preaching he suggests.

I think Wright makes some profound and striking points about preaching today. He leads readers back to an emphasis on leading people not necessarily to comfort and affirmation but to repentance and conversion for the purpose of growing up into Christ as a community of saints. I think he undermines his focus by taking historical jabs at preachers in the past who I think have done lasting service to the Body of Christ. His generalizations and stereotypes are also unhelpful and discount the work of God's Spirit in the church today. The good points make this book worth reading for preachers.

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