- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Chalice Press (December 1, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0827227167
- ISBN-13: 978-0827227163
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,485,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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One Gospel, Many Ears: Preaching for Different Listeners in the Congregation Paperback – December 1, 2002
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About the Author
Ronald J. Allen is Nettie Sweeney and Hugh Th. Miller Professor of Preaching and New Testament at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. He is author of many books, including Patterns of Preaching and Interpreting the Gospel, and coauthor of One Gospel, Many Ears and Listening to Listeners, all from Chalice Press.
Joseph R. Jeter, Jr., is Granville and Erline Walker Professor of Homiletics at Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas, and is the author of Re/Membering from Chalice Press.
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Jeter and Allen take the task in hand to look both at the types of listeners in the congregation as well as the types of messages that work for particular and for general audiences.
--Who is listening to this?-
Much of the text is concerned with this question. Whole chapters are devoted addressing generational issues, gender issues, multicultural issues, learning style and mental process issues, social class issues, and 'political' issues. Prior to this, however, Jeter and Allen look at the variety that exists in congregations as a mixture - rarely does one get a congregation that fits any particular model. The authors give fair warning up front: 'Belonging to a particular cohort does not completely predetermine how a person will respond to a particular mode of expression or to a particular sermon.' This book will provide clues to finding the answer, but that answer may still remain elusive.
In looking at generational issues, the task is more complicated than young versus old. Currently in congregations, according to the authors, there are four primary generations represented: the Builders (the real elders of the church), the Silents, the Boomers, and the Generation-13. Each has characteristics of responsiveness, yet within each generation is a wide range of values, priorities, and needs.
In looking at different mental processes (learning styles), Jeter and Allen look at various educational and developmental psychology theories to help clarify how people become and remain who they are. Evaluation and diagnostic tools such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Fowler's Faith Development Theory, and Neuro Linguistic Programming models give insight into the way people perceive the world, and hence hear and respond to sermons.
Gender issues are more complicated than male-female, Mars-and-Venus types of constructions. Jeter and Allen give attention to a generation's work on feminist theory and ways women know and understand things, as well as the way men respond to language, instruction, and preaching. They conclude the chapter by looking at sexuality and orientation issues, one of the hot-button issues confronting many denominations today. Jeter and Allen are generally open and affirming toward such populations, recognising the real issues and pain others have confronting such issues in their home churches.
In looking at multicultural issues, Jeter and Allen look at race issues, but also beyond to nationality and linguistic differences. They are honest about the church's lack of leadership in this area (indeed, it has sometimes been a deliberate hindrance), and make suggestions for preaching and inclusion that involve education and experience to enable members of a congregation to become more familiar with 'others' on safe territory.
Preaching 'to the least of these' might seem a very biblically-based thing churches should be doing, but many churches fail to recognise this area of ministry. The stranger, the poor, the elderly, the handicapped, children: Jeter and Allen remind us that it is the task of the preacher to look for all gifts of all the people, for the benefit of the whole community - there are more gifts than the obvious ones. They remind us to remind others 'that God has not left anyone ungifted, that we all have gifts we can use for God.'
In thinking of liberals and conservatives, Jeter and Allen remind us of the words of Charles Allen (no relation), that the shorthand terms liberal and conservative have much broader meanings than we traditionally ascribe to them. Looking beyond these labels, 'Most Christian folk theologians are less interested in being conservative or liberal than in being faithful to God and to the best of their human understanding.'
Instead of a conclusion, Jeter and Allen provide a reprise, repeating the principles set forth in the first chapter on sermon development, in light of the material covered about different types of listeners. An appendix provides a grid-chart for the organisationally motivated to keep track of efforts to include all types of people within the four primary generational groups.
Like many of Allen's other texts, this text is easy to read and comfortable to use. It avoids jargon for the sake of jargon, and is written with the non-scholar in mind, while neither condescending to the non-academic nor boring or shorting the academic. This is a rare talent, indeed. Both Jeter and Allen teach at seminaries supported by the Disciples tradition - that tradition seeks broad-based, ecumenical cooperation and appeal, and that spirit is clearly reflected in this text, with its openness of approach and lack of dogmatic rigidity while holding fast to important principles of method and the gospel.
This is a text that is very worthwhile for preachers, and will also be very useful for anyone who listens to sermons and has a care for the way they, and others, might respond to them.