More Information
ISBN: 9781839732218
Imprint: Langham Monographs
Format: Paperback
Dimensions (mm): 229 x 152 x 16
Publication Date: 30/06/2021
Pages: 300
Language: English

Sermon Listening

A New Approach Based on Congregational Studies and Rhetoric


Preaching is an integral part of every church service, and its purpose has always been to edify, encourage, and to emphasize the positive effects of coming together as a people of God. Yet there remains an inconsistency between the intended goals of preaching and the subjective perception of the listeners. In this homiletical study, Dr. Enoh Šeba provides fresh insight into the “turn to the listener” model and offers a theologically sustainable warrant mandate for the transformation of the preaching practice through a stronger involvement of the congregation. While grounding the research in the experience of Croatian Baptists, Dr. Šeba highlights practical suggestions for both listeners and preachers that are transferrable across contexts. This important work reveals that preaching can and should be transformed into a truly congregational practice that will affirmatively affect the dynamics of ecclesial life. This book will spark conversations and induce small-scale changes on a variety of levels while bridging the gap between preachers and their listeners.

Author Bios

Enoh Šeba

Dr Enoh Šeba (PhD, Spurgeon’s College, London, UK) is Assistant Professor at Matthias Flacius University Centre for Protestant Theology, Croatia.


Enoh Šeba offers a rich and multi-faceted study in homiletics. He mines classical traditions of rhetoric and draws them into a rich dialogue with his own context, while also making a contribution to the fertile ground of “baptistic” theology within the contemporary academy. A unique and valuable contribution to contemporary homiletics literature.

Doug Gay, PhD
Principal of Trinity College, Lecturer in Practical Theology, University of Glasgow, UK

In this groundbreaking study, Enoh Šeba describes and reflects on a unique research project. This book will help congregations, pastors, denominational leaders and theologians anywhere in the world take more seriously the importance of respecting those who listen to sermons, and develop practices of preaching and hearing which truly build up the people of God on the foundation of his word.

Stephen I. Wright, PhD
Vice Principal and Academic Director, Spurgeon’s College, London, UK

In this engaging exploration of preaching in Croatia, Dr. Šeba provides preachers with ways to make listeners an important and enduring part of the preaching conversation.

Lucy Lind Hogan, PhD
Hugh Latimer Elderdice Professor of Preaching, Emerita, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, DC, USA

Enoh Šeba provides one of the finest intellectual histories of the “turn to the listener” in recent homiletics, and an overview of preaching practices and homiletical scholarship among Croatian Baptists. He takes the reader on a journey into the ways that sermon listeners are processing the sermons they hear as he summarizes the results of his empirical and ethnographic study of sermon-listening among Croatian Baptists. The results are remarkably insightful and consistently helpful.

John S. McClure, PhD
Charles G. Finney Professor of Preaching and Worship,
Vanderbilt Divinity School, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

Drawing on a wide knowledge of the fields of homiletics, rhetoric, congregational studies and practical theology, this book will help congregations, pastors, denominational leaders and theologians anywhere in the world take more seriously the importance of respecting those who listen to sermons, and develop practices of preaching and hearing which truly build up the people of God on the foundation of his word.

Stephen I. Wright, PhD
Vice Principal and Academic Director,
Spurgeon’s College, London, UK

Professor Enoh Šeba is one of the first scholars in the world to take this “turn to the listener” by studying how actual people listen to sermons in five congregations in four Croatian communities. The results show what people really value in sermons, what works in communication between pulpit and pew, and how preachers can shape their sermons to enhance listening, and hence, deepen Christian life and witness.

Ronald J. Allen, PhD
Professor of Preaching, and Gospels and Letters, Emeritus,
Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

With this book on Croatian Baptist preaching, Enoh Šeba adds a rich homiletical study to the growing number of empirical studies in the field. His choice to combine rhetoric and congregational studies builds upon existing research and emphasizes the significance of studying preaching in relation to its local context.

Theo Pleizier, PhD
Assistant Professor of Practical Theology,
Protestant Theological University, Groningen, Netherlands

Table of Contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Chapter 1 Introduction
    1. Context
    2. Problem and Significance
    3. Response
  3. Chapter 2 Contemporary “Turn to the Listener” in Homiletics
    1. Communication Theory
    2. Literary Criticism and Philosophy
    3. Collaborative Approaches
    4. Conversational Approaches
  4. Chapter 3 Rhetoric and Homiletics
    1. Classical Rhetoric
      1. Aristotle
      2. Cicero
      3. Quintilian
    2. Rhetoric and Homiletics – Story of the Intense Relationship
      1. Augustine
      2. Middle Ages and Reformation
      3. Enlightenment and Modern Era
    3. The Contemporary Revival, or How Homiletics Revisits Rhetoric
      1. Lucy Lind Hogan and Robert Reid
      2. Robin Meyers
      3. Craig Loscalzo
  5. Chapter 4 Congregational Studies and Homiletics
    1. A Brief History of Congregational Studies
    2. A Closer Look: Three Classics
      1. James F. Hopewell
      2. Don S. Browning
      3. Studying Congregations: A New Handbook
    3. Homiletical Approaches Informed by Congregational Studies: Two Examples
      1. Preaching as Local Theology and Folk Art
      2. One Gospel, Many Ears
  6. Chapter 5 Existing Empirical Studies in Preaching
    1. Presence in the Pulpit
      1. The Dimension of Security
      2. The Dimension of Deliverance
      3. The Dimension of Understanding
      4. Further Observations
    2. The Great American Sermon Survey
      1. Similarities and Differences
      2. Lessons for Listeners
      3. Lessons for Preachers
    3. Listening to Listeners
      1. Key Premises and Major Findings
      2. Listening Settings
      3. Twelve Features of Inviting Preaching
      4. Concluding Observations
  7. Chapter 6 Croatian Baptists and Their Homiletical Practice
    1. History of Croatian Baptists
    2. The Existing Homiletical Literature
    3. The Homiletical Practice of Croatian Baptists
    4. The Need for the Research
  8. Chapter 7 Presentation of Methodology
    1. Personal Motivation and Involvement
    2. Description and Details of the Research
    3. Research Strategy and Procedures
  9. Chapter 8 Data Presentation
    1. Ethos
      1. Communal Dimension
      2. Authentic Life of a Preacher
      3. Internal Ethos
    2. Logos
      1. Role of the Bible
      2. Authority
      3. Sermon Content
      4. God in the Sermon
    3. Pathos
      1. Congregational Emotions
      2. Listener’s Emotions
    4. (Dis)connected
      1. Connections
      2. Disconnections
  10. Chapter 9 Data Interpretation: Listeners’ Expectations and Receptiveness
    1. General Expectations
      1. High Hopes of Preaching
      2. (Somewhat) Rough Reality
    2. Specific Expectations: When Sermons Are Actually Heard
      1. Understanding the Bible – Finding Guidance for Everyday Life
      2. Getting to Know God and Maintaining a Private Devotion
      3. Spiritual Battery Charging and Identity Affirmation
      4. Challenge to Change
    3. Are Expectations Sufficient?
    4. Responsibility: Backing Up Expectations
      1. Passive Responsibility
      2. Active Responsibility
  11. Chapter 10 Theological and Theoretical Reflection
    1. Theological Framing
      1. Imago Dei and Formation of Character
      2. Incarnation and Building the Community of Faith
      3. Priesthood of All Believers and the Relation of Community Identity to the Culture
    2. Final Reflections . . .
    3. . . . and Some Personal Thoughts
  12. Chapter 11 Suggestions for Improving the Practice of Preaching
    1. Suggestions to Preachers
      1. Understand Your Expectations
      2. They Want to Hear – Help Them!
      3. Never Underestimate their Commitment
      4. Appreciate the Diversity of the Audience
      5. If You Can’t Listen, You Can’t Preach – So Listen . . . and Repeat
      6. Do Not Persuade – Identify with Them Instead
      7. Actively Seek Critical Feedback
      8. Do Not Be Afraid of Losing Control
      9. Go Slowly
    2. Suggestions to the Listeners
      1. Come to Listen and Come to Hear
      2. Become a Constructive Contributor
      3. Take Your Share of Responsibility
  13. Chapter 12 Conclusion
    1. Limitations
    2. Research Objectives
      1. Expectations
      2. (Dis)engaging Factors
    3. Contribution to Knowledge
    4. Further Research Suggestions
      1. Preachers’ Perspective
      2. Female Listeners’ Perspective
      3. Perceptions from the Margin
      4. Passive Responsibility and Cultural Conditioning
      5. Identification Techniques and Strategies
    5. “Amen to That!”
  14. Appendix: Interview Questions
  15. Bibliography

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