Date of Award:

5-2010

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences

Advisor/Chair:

Byron R. Burnham

Abstract

This qualitative research compared the practice of an expert preacher to core concepts in homiletic theory (the art and craft of preaching), searching for discrepancies between what theory suggested and what the preacher practiced. It also sought to validate that the preacher practiced what homiletic theorists prescribed and to inform homiletic theory by describing strategies he employed unlike those espoused in homiletic theory.

To discover whether the participant's practice was congruent with theory, I first identified seminal theories. They were classified into the following modified version of Broadus's categories of ideal preaching: (a) content, (b) arrangement, (c) introduction,transition, and conclusion, (d) style, (e) illustrations, and (f) the delivery. I created a rubric from the literature review as a standard from which I compared the participant's audio and video sermons. The rubric had six categories, 39 subcategories, and 58 characteristics of ideal preaching to which the preacher was compared. The analysis included frequency counts of certain words, phrases, illustrations, and the results of the Flesch's Reading Ease score. To find strategies employed by the participant but not represented in the literature, I also used an inductive method to analyze the integral parts and patterns of the sermons.

The analysis revealed that the preacher's practice was congruent with theory yet the preacher had never read homiletic theory. Because the preacher was able to sidestep the need to study homiletics, it was concluded that for him preaching was an intuitive art/craft.

The research also revealed that the preacher had a personal homiletic philosophy wherein everything in his preparation, message design, and delivery centered on relevancy. The preacher felt strongly that the message had to apply to his listeners in meaningful ways. The preacher's strength centered not so much on how he presented, but what he presented. His sermons were filled with what homiletic theorist Sunukjian called "timeless truths." They made the preacher's sermons insightful, hopeful, and most of all, relevant to his listeners.

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