Evangelistic Preaching Idea Prompts and Suggestions

Note: Though these topics are suggested by non-Catholic authors, they provide springboards of opportunity for Catholic preachers [within Eucharistic homilies or in other Catholic settings] to build and convey the fullness of our tradition while inviting individuals to initial stages of conversion, discipleship, or inspiring curiosity.

List of Topics, Idea Prompts, Suggestions, Etc.

From Paul Johns in The Future of Preaching (Geoffrey Stevenson, Editor)

Theology of institutional power: “governments and corporations—provide much of our news now. A theology ‘the powers’ understands them to be both spiritual and material” (p. 106)

Popular culture: “the need is not for a theology that stuffily dismisses popular culture as inherently opposed to Christ, nor for one that trendily embraces it, determined to find something of Christ in everything. The need is for a theology of critical engagement…This is one that acknowledges in cultural life a deep ambiguity (p. 107)

Dislocation: “the reality we thought we knew and within which we felt secure changes, and seems to leave us stranded. It may be sudden, like a natural disaster, or the crash of a bank, or the announcement of massive redundancy [layoffs]. It may be gradual like the process of global warming, or the slow but nonetheless troubling transformation of a monocultural neighborurhood into a multicultural one. It is the experience of familiar landmarks disappearing, reality as I have known it changing and pitching me into uncertainty” (p. 107-108)

 From Larry Moyer’s Show Me How to Preach Evangelistic Sermons (p. 69-73, 81-87)

  • Book of John
  • Passages that answers specific questions non-Christians are asking
  • Passages that answer provocative questions of interest to non-Christians (i.e. How many of the 10 Commandments do we have to keep to get to heaven?)
  • Select passages that deal with objections non-Christians have 87
  • Family, money, loneliness, peace of mind, living after divorce/hurt, coping with pain disappointment, living a purposeful life, etc.
  • Responses when confronted with a crisis or emergency that attracts local or national attention
  • Response to a moral issue
  • Aspects of popular understandings of Christianity (i.e. movies like The Passion of Christ or The Da Vinci Code)

From Ramesh Richard’s Preparing Evangelistic Sermons: A Seven-Step Method for Preaching Salvation

Universal spiritual needs that lend themselves to audience-driven development: forgiveness, peace, stability, hope, afterlife, love, survival, wisdom, purpose, spiritual quest, demonic oppression and supernatural evil forces (p. 140-141)

Intellectual questions: What is the nature and existence of truth? Does God exist? What is the nature of God? What about the problem of evil? Is religion efficacious? Are miracles possible? How do you reconcile religion versus science debates? Why is Jesus God? Why is Jesus unique? Did Jesus rise from the dead? Is the Bible reliable? Do the Bible and science conflict? (p. 141)

Existential issues: anxiety, fear, inner conflict, happiness, freedom, satisfaction, significance, broken relationships, loneliness, restlessness, sense of loss, self-concept, victimization, inability to change, adventure, sense of limitations, direction in life (p. 142)

Have you had a positive experience preaching evangelistically (or pre-evangelistically) on any of these topics? What would you recommend adding to the list?

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Top 10 Homily Prep Tips for the New Evangelization (aka Evangelistic Preaching: Part 14)

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Find out more about each of these strategies in this series on evangelistic preaching in Catholic contexts.

 

 

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.

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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.

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“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]

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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.

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[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…

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

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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!)

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

[2] Webb, Preaching Without Notes, 25.

 

Preaching the Kerygma. Preaching for Evangelization. It Doesn’t Happen By Accident…

Yesterday’s second reading from the Letter to the Romans (aka the Third Sunday of Lent, Year A) is one of those amazing Scripture passages that makes you stop. And just say YES! Lord, Thank you! Or utter an audible, Amen. Why? Because it’s a mini-kerygma, pure and simple.

Here it is:

Since we have been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith
to this grace in which we stand,
and we boast in hope of the glory of God.

And hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For Christ, while we were still helpless,
died at the appointed time for the ungodly.
Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person,
though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.
But God proves his love for us
in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

I wanted to just jump out of my pew and rejoice when I heard this at Mass yesterday.

But here’s where a big gap arises. Anecdotally and statistically, it seems that the depth of the meaning of this passage isn’t known to most in the pews. And this is why evangelistic preaching is important for Catholic ministry.

After yesterday’s Mass, someone remarked to me:

“I think I’ve heard ‘the plan of salvation’ [preached] 1000% more in Protestant churches than Catholic ones….even though salvation is more than the ‘Jesus prayer’ why isn’t it being talked about more? We believe ‘I have been saved, I am being saved, and will be saved,’ but I don’t hear ‘salvation’ as a central theme in Catholic homilies the way I did in Protestant churches.”

I agree. There’s a need for evangelistic preaching in Catholic ministry. In places where ordinary folks will actually hear it. And this isn’t about copying Protestant preachers–not at all! Evangelistic preaching has a history in Catholicism that’s older than the Reformation.

Read my article about how and why to preach evangelistically in Catholic settings here in Church Life: A Journal for the New EvangelizationIt’s a mix of theology, history, and really practical/pragmatic sermon preparation tips…so read only what appeals to you 🙂 Or, if you’re the visual type, check out these excerpts from my presentation on the topic. 

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.

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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.

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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.

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