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:
- Upsetting the equilibrium
- Analyzing the discrepancy
- Disclosing the clue to resolution
- Experiencing the gospel
- 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).