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Three types of listeners - What do make of this homiletic hypothesis?

Pastoring in the 21st Century

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Edited: Jan 29, 2008, 2:57am Top

Last week, Dr. Ciska Stark, a homiletics scholar from the Free University in Amsterdam, presented a theory about three types of listeners in church. Whether it's a new theory or not, I don't know, but it grabbed my attention. She suggested that these three types can be described with the following catchwords: 'content', 'feeling' and 'relationship'. Some listeners are (mainly) focused on the sermon's content, they are rational and cognitive. Other listeners are predominantly influenced by emotion; they long to 'experience' something. Thus it can be that an 'emotional' sermon will appeal strongly to one group in church, and will overshoot the mark with the other group. A third party is more preoccupied with the relational side and will evaluate in how far they have had 'contact' with the preacher during his sermon. Characteristic of this third group is the often-heard remark: "I don't exactly remember what the sermon was all about, but the preacher was really honest and has spoken true words which were fitting just for me." Dr. Stark recommended that we should be aware of these three types of listeners when we preach. "They are in every church on every sunday. If only one group is addressed each Sunday, don't be surprised that the majority gets bored with your sermons after four years."

Speaking for myself, as a preacher and listener I feel very much at home in the 'content'-category. But I think she's right, and that it would be wise to improve and develop in the other two types of preaching. Question is: how?

Curious to know what others have to say...

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