Biographical Preaching (Bringing Biblical Characters to Life)

by R. Larry Overstreet

The lives of biblical characters offer preachers a rich gold mine that has hardly been explored. Both good and evil characters show modern hearers that ancient virtues and vices parallel those that face us today.

Biographical preaching appeals to almost all hearers. It has the element of suspense. It demonstrates that "holy" people of old had their trials and sometimes exhibited gross foibles. An examination of biblical character over an extended time (for example Abram or Simon Peter) shows the patience and longsuffering of God as He molds the person into what He wants him to be. Indirectly, biographical preaching tells us that we have no excuse for failure when the going gets tough.

When selecting a biblical character, the preacher must focus on the character trait he wants to stress. He studies the background of the person: his strengths, his weaknesses, his society, and his peers. The speaker will sometimes have to use his imagination to fill in what may be only implied in the text.

The method of presenting the sermon includes using appropriate illustration to highlight the biblical character and to help the listeners make application to their lives. Overstreet suggests using the present tense narrative to help the listener more easily identify with the character. Above all, the preacher must present God's working in the lives of people both ancient and modern.