Eugene Lowry and Narrative Preaching

Eugene Lowry’s The Homiletical Plot: The Sermon as Narrative Art Form was originally published in 1980 and re-published in expanded form in 2001. It’s become nothing short of a classic textbook for narrative preaching. The “Lowry Loop,” as it has come to be known, provides a concrete way to move away from sermons that are simply rhetoric based, the proverbial “three points and a poem.”

The structure of the Lowry Loop (circa 1980) consists of:

  1. Upsetting the equilibrium
  2. Analyzing the discrepancy
  3. Disclosing the clue to resolution
  4. Experiencing the gospel
  5. Anticipating the consequences

What does this accomplish? Thomas G. Long points out two key achievements–first, it prevents a sermon from becoming a “bland abstraction,” and draws hearers into troubles they recognize “as urgent and real.” Second, it pushes us towards envisioning the sermon as a process or sequence–“an event unfolding temporally”– rather than a structure of static points. Through this the sermon has a plot, it flows from “itch to scratch,” descending “steaditly until the denouement, at which point it reverses course and is constituted by an unremitting rising action.” A “roller coaster-like” loop. (Thomas G. Long, “Out of the Loop” in What’s the Shape of Narrative Preaching, p. 116-117).

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