Evangelistic Preaching (Part 12) — Strategies

This is the twelfth post in a series on evangelistic preaching in Catholic contexts.

We’ve reached the point of discussing how to preach evangelistically in our Catholic context. Here are strategies 5, 6, and 7.


Effective evangelistic sermons are memorable so that hearers can continue to ponder the message after it has ended, reviewing and considering (hopefully prayerfully) the call for action or decision. To help make a sermon more memorable, preachers consider clarity (if the one delivering the message can remember it without notes, then a hearer might also be able to remember the logic of the sermon and even potentially recount it to another person), repetition, not simply restatement, of key phrases, and use of illustrations.



“Present-day audiences are oriented toward story in sight and sound in addition to verbal instruction,” and are indeed “accustomed to receiv[ing] and shar[ing] much of our communication through images.”[1] The use of multiple media to convey a message could be as simple as offering Scripture verses projected on a screen  for those who are unfamiliar with a Bible or Missal [photo example: Fr. Michael White of Church of the Nativity, Timonium, MD], or as intricate as the use of interwoven theater or drama to communicate a message. Medieval preachers, for example, used a visual homiletic that included drama, plays, and a specific repertoire of gestures known to audiences from paintings.[2] When incorporated with care and discernment, the use of a variety of media can make an evangelistic sermon more evocative, vivid, moving, and memorable.[3]


In an evangelistic setting, where establishing the credibility of the preacher and a way for hearers to follow-up and continue to ask questions are of particular importance, creating multiple points of engagement can help create lasting impact for the sermon. This means considering opportunities for dialogue, discussion, interaction and questions after or during preaching, using the internet and text-messaging to offer opportunities for virtual engagement, and exploring how to make the audience part of the sermon moment.


[1] Richard, Preparing Evangelistic Sermons, 155; Wright, Alive to the Word, 162.

[2] Thomas H. Troeger, Ten Strategies for Preaching in a Multimedia Culture, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996), 12.

[3] Wright, Alive to the Word, 164.


Evangelistic Preaching (Part 11) — Strategies

This is the eleventh post in a series on evangelistic preaching in Catholic contexts.

We’ve reached the point of discussing how to preach evangelistically in our Catholic context and are discussing specific strategies for developing evangelistic sermons. Here are strategies #2 through #4…



For Catholic preachers, this is a significant difference from a liturgical homily in the context of the Eucharist or the Liturgy of the Hours, where a relatively large portion of Scripture is provided as the basis for preaching and well-crafted integration of diverse texts is encouraged as a fruitful means of reflection for the assembly. When preaching evangelistically, one often has greater choice of text and should carefully consider, if the text can be readily understood without extensive background, if the text is effective with hearers who do not associate it with a particular place in the liturgical year, if the text will be visible to the audience during the sermon, and if a distinctly Catholic hermeneutic is required to grasp the message of the sermon. In many cases, texts for evangelistic sermons will often be much shorter than selections of Scripture used for catechetical or Eucharistic homilies.




Again, this highlights another point of difference in emphasis when comparing evangelistic and Eucharistic preaching. Eucharistic homilies are intended to be essentially connected to Scripture and intrinsically related to doctrine and catechesis (USCCB, Preaching the Mystery of Faith, 23, 31). While this is appropriate for preaching to an audience of faith, hearers of evangelistic sermons often have misperceptions based on faulty factual knowledge of Christian tradition and the Catholic Church. Effective evangelistic sermons will often include a greater proportion of time spent on factual clarification and/or apologetics when compared to other forms of preaching.




In our information and media saturated world, “in which cynicism about what to believe or not believe is everywhere,” what makes preaching unique as a form of communication?[1] One element is the potential for personal connection between a speaker and listener. We cultivate this connection, this “fullest and most intense bonding between the preacher and those who share the preaching,” by offering personal testimony, appropriate intimacy and vulnerability, being relational and interactive, and sharing our fervor, passion, love, and genuine emotion and humor.[2] Many preachers accomplish this through the deliberate minimal use of notes, outlines, or memorization of a script for delivery when preaching evangelistically in order to maximize this connectivity (note: this also helps with simplicity of message!)


[1] Joseph M. Webb, Preaching Without Notes, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2001), 29.

[2] Webb, Preaching Without Notes, 25.


“The Five Aims of Preaching” from Adam Hamilton

Whenever I come across new vocabulary for understanding preaching, I’ll continue to share. In Leading Beyond the Walls: Developing Congregations with a Heart for the Unchurched(Abingdon Press, 2002), Adam Hamilton names Five Aims of Preaching:

  1. Evangelism (designed for the unchurched/nominal Christians, “fishing expeditions,” includes an invitation)
  2. Discipleship (majority of sermons are in this category)
  3. Equipping and Sending (“inspiring parishioners to do something about their faith” p. 86)
  4. Pastoral Care (“offering real hope and real help to those who are broken” p. 88)
  5. Institutional Development (ensure the health and vitality of the church; i.e. purpose of the church, needs of the church, vision, preparing people for future challenges, and stewardship; preached sparingly p. 89)

He aims to “accomplish most of these goals in each sermon series” he preaches (p. 79), though some series are more heavily weighted towards a particular area.

My thoughts. I rather like his five aims–I think it pretty much encompasses much of what I hope to hear from the pulpit in Catholic settings. His emphasis on discipleship preaching (rather than dedicating the Sunday morning worship service (Mass in my context!), to evangelistic preaching for “seekers”) fits with the USCCB’s vision as articulated in Fulfilled in Your Hearing and Preaching the Mystery of Faith.

“Sacramental Preaching” within Catholicism

A few weeks ago the InternetMonk offered up the term “sacramental preaching.”

Now this, is not a term I recall ever hearing in three years of a M.Div. degree at a Catholic university. However, it certainly resonates with Catholic theology! Chaplain Mike of the InternetMonk writes:

In sacramental traditions, the concept of preaching, and even the corporate reading of Scripture, is different than in revivalist traditions. It is about God literally acting through the spoken word.

He goes on to describe, “pastors who don’t think, for example, that the lectionary readings should even be printed in the bulletin”–a parallel to a conversation I’ve had in many a Catholic theology/ministry course over the question should missals, missalette, Bibles, or screen projection of verses be offered at Mass, or should the communication of Scripture be only oral? 

I think these questions rightly challenge us to be faithful to the liturgy of the Holy Mass, and at the same time have a concern for evangelization and catechesis.

For example, for many who are unfamiliar with hearing Scripture (or any spoken word) proclaimed (not a rarity in our culture today), having a copy of the text to read along with is essential for comprehension. (Also for those with hearing impairments or difficulty hearing in some of our less-acoustically-well-designed sanctuary spaces). Being able to see the text can help it sink in, especially for those who are less familiar or unlikely to go look it up in their Bible at home after Mass. Our concern for the evangelization of souls can take short-term priority over the long-term aim of cooperating with the Holy Spirit in helping these same souls grow as disciples, ready to hear the Word only orally, and allow the communal proclamation and reception to take hold in their hearts.

Chaplain Mike concludes:
“understanding the preaching moment as being of the same piece as the rest of the liturgy, in my opinion, has advantages over other views which see preaching in its essence as rhetoric, apologetics, persuasion, or teaching. Such conceptions highlight the skills of the person in the pulpit and the techniques employed, whereas a more sacramental view highlights God’s action through human speech (no matter how weak or flawed the human speaker)”

This also offers much for us in the Catholic setting. First, I can’t emphasize enough how important teaching “the preaching moment as being of the same piece as the rest of the liturgy” is for all Catholics (especially those not attending Mass regularly). Many Americans who self-identify as Catholic (whether they are believers or not) see something patently unfair about the practice of prioritizing the preaching of a homily by a priest or deacon celebrating the Mass. Yet in the context of the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy’s assertion…

The two parts which, in a certain sense, go to make up the Mass, namely, the liturgy of the word and the eucharistic liturgy, are so closely connected with each other that they form but one single act of worship (No. 56).

We see that preaching a homily at Mass should not be extracted from the Mass as a whole, as it diminishes both.

But, the practical evangelization and catechetical questions creep back in…what about when the priest, though used by God, is objectively a poor preacher (and not seeming/willing to improve)? Don’t people need to hear preachers skilled in “rhetoric, apologetics, persuasion, or teaching” for the sake of evangelization?

The answer to this is clearly yes. The way to accomplish this is through more preaching. Practically, we must offer not only the Mass (and preaching within that liturgical, sacramental context), but also pre-evangelistic, evangelistic, and catechetical preaching outside of Mass (by ordained and lay preachers of all backgrounds) for the sake of the salvation of souls!

Evangelistic Preaching (Part 10) — Strategies

This is the tenth post in a series on evangelistic preaching in Catholic contexts.

We’ve reaching the point of discussing how to preach evangelistically in our Catholic context. Here I offer Strategy #1 – Enter into their worldview.


Thomas Long echoes this idea, cautioning, “it would be a mistake…to imagine that we are preaching to blank tablets on which the gospel can be freshly inscribed. The culture has been scribbling on those tablets,” with the messages that humanity is saved by knowledge and enlightened people will be ethical, human rituals are “at best unfortunate, and at worst contaminants,” and spiritual experiences and “heartfelt moments of illumination” are good, but “religious institutions are inevitably corrupt.”[3] By imagining the questions, fears, and joys of our contemporaries who hold these views, and using these perspectives as a cornerstone, we can develop truly evangelistic sermons.

[1] Moyer, Show Me How to Preach Evangelistic Sermons, 58-78.

[2] Stephen I. Wright, Alive to the Word: A Practical Theology of Preaching for the Whole Church, (London: SCM Press, 2010), 28.

[3] Long, Preaching from Memory to Hope, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 77, 73.

Have you enjoyed this series and are looking for Part 11? Blog posts for this series are on temporary hold since an article-version has been picked up for publication. After the article is published, I’ll post everything again online. I appreciate your patience 🙂

Evangelistic Preaching (Part 9) — Definition and Homily Development

This is the ninth post in a series on evangelistic preaching in Catholic contexts.

Putting the elements of audience, content, and purpose together to form a definition, evangelistic preaching in Catholicism is announcing the message of salvation in Jesus Christ to nonbelievers in order to bring about repentance of sin, conversion of hearts, and a decision of faith.


On the surface, this appears to be a simple definition. Yet, many preachers who can comfortably prepare and preach Eucharistic homilies or catechetical sermons to the gathered community of the faithful are decidedly less confident in preaching an evangelistic message. Truly actualizing and embodying evangelistic preaching requires a complete orientation towards the world of the nonbeliever—a category that includes not only those who have not heard the Gospel or are not Christian, but baptized (and even fully initiated) Christians who have not made a fundamental response to encounter with Jesus Christ or who need to deepen this response—and this is no simple task.

So how do we develop evangelistic sermons?

Foundational elements of the homiletic method such as reading, listening, and praying with a text and/or topic, listening to and praying about the community, Biblical exegesis, choosing an appropriate structure, delivery, assessment, and others apply to all forms of preaching, regardless of whether it is pre-evangelistic, evangelistic, catechetical, or liturgical preaching, including Eucharistic homilies.

Beyond this general homiletic foundation, building a genuinely evangelistic homily requires intentionality. To aid in our collective rediscovery of vibrant Catholic evangelistic preaching tailored for our cultural context, I offer ten practical strategies for developing effective sermons that are authentically evangelistic in outlook.



Evangelistic Preaching (Part 8) – Purpose of Preaching for Evangelization in Catholicism

This is the eight post in a series on evangelistic preaching in Catholic contexts.

We’re in the final part of defining Catholic evangelistic preaching by audience, content, and purpose. Having identified the audience as nonbelievers (a term with multiple meanings in our Catholic context), and the core content as the message of salvation, we now turn to the purpose of evangelistic preaching.


The purpose of evangelistic preaching is to bring about “repentance of sin, conversion of hearts, and a decision of faith.”[1] This is the “conversion from radical unbelief to belief” mentioned in Fulfilled in Your Hearing that is not the primary purpose of the Eucharistic homily.[2]

Practically, this means that an evangelistic sermon’s message or topic is designed for action. It is not merely information about the core content, information about salvation, but communication intended to foster and cultivate conditions for a response of conversion.

[1] “Bulletin…Synod [on] the New Evangelization,” prop. 9.

[2] Fulfilled in Your Hearing, 17.