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This dissertation will argue that in order for evangelistic preaching within American evangelicalism to regain the effectiveness currently being lost in the dramatically shifting culture it will be necessary for preachers to exert greater initiative to engage listeners with emotional persuasion beyond merely the information presented.
Changes in American culture at the twenty-first century mark reflect a transition from the modern to the postmodern era. One affect this change is having upon the religious life of American evangelicalism is a waning effectiveness of preaching the gospel as indicated by declining numbers of conversion growth in churches. The current crisis arises from modes of communication long-entrenched in modern assumptions while the culture itself is shifting to the postmodern era. Emerging characteristics of the postmodern era indicate that for effective communication the need to establish an affective connection is more important than the informational content itself. Communicating the gospel will require a heightened focus on engaging listeners so the message may gain a hearing at all, much less an effective response.
Consideration will begin by examining the historical contrasts that produced an Information Age. During this era the rise of academic seminary training fostered styles of preaching predominately based in cognitive information. Evangelism adapted to the culture with presentation designed to convince listeners using logical argument arranged in propositional outlines. This approach resulted in eventual marginalization of the Christian voice in the mainstream culture. Further consideration will evaluate biblical and theological attributes of preaching to differentiate evangelistic preaching from other forms of instruction, and to distinguish timeless aspects of the gospel from those reflecting the cultural contextualization of a particular era. Consideration will also examine communication theory especially related to persuasion. While the mysterious element of God’s work is always paramount, the human task of evangelistic preaching must embrace persuasion dynamics, particularly in response to changing culture, to gain effectiveness. The initiative toward engaging listeners is valid both for theological interpretation and applied practice.
The purpose of this paper is to summon American preachers to affectively engage listeners, rather than merely propagate information. As a more engaging approach is embraced, the gospel may more effectively accomplish its intended purpose of transforming lives and societal structures.
Content Reader: Daniel Harrell, PhD
Preaching; Evangelistic work; Persuasion (Psychology); Information theory; Postmodernism; Church and the world
Missions and World Christianity
Material is subject to copyright.
Marvel, Jerry J., "The Initiative to Engage Listeners for Preaching the Gospel Persuasively in Postmodern American Evangelicalism" (2011). Doctor of Ministry Projects. 50.