It was 1983. I think. 1984.The late Dr Walter Martin was in Perth, Western Australia where I was studying at Bible College. And I went to hear him preach at Thornlie Church of Christ where John Bond was pastoring at the time.
Walter Martin was preaching on the foolishness of God and he used 4 Biblical stories to illustrate this part of God – Moses, Abraham, David, and then Jesus on the cross. I had never heard anyone use story in such a way. More than 20 years on and I can still remember the sermon.
This conflicted with the way we were taught to preach – a sermon like Jesus used to preach with a sharp introduction, 3 points with flowering illustrations and a conclusion [which i sometimes employ when preaching at very conservative churches]. But this new kind of preaching [it seemed new to me] seemed natural and right and honoring to the narrative of the Bible. I guess I began using a narrative approach to preaching from that point on. And the more I read my Bible, the less I found evidence of “feeding the sheep with a 3-pointed pitchfork’.
The most important part of Walt’s message was the actual Scripture verse he was highlighting with narrative – in this case “The foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1 Cor 1:25). He didn’t have any of his own propositional points to push as titles and the biblical stories he used all undergirded the Bible itself. In a world (call is ‘postmodern’ if you want) where the source material is considered more reliable than someone’s construct (sermon), the storytelling approach to preaching is now quite common.