Boring or Divine Encounter - Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Non-didactic Approach to Preaching

Peter Woodward

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis offers a critical examination of the causes for and potential solutions to the problem of boring preaching. It maintains that from a Christian perspective the Good News of God’s love in Jesus Christ is not meant for boredom and uncomfortable listening, and that preaching at its most effective will offer all those involved – preachers and listeners – a divine encounter that harbours a life-changing event. It suggests that preaching can and should open the hearts and minds of all to a lived experience of faith in Jesus Christ rather than being a mere historical and/or academic exercise. It therefore proposes that preaching be undertaken as an important ministry within the Missio Dei, namely God’s mission in and to the world

The thesis provides a review of selected literature to examine the difference between preaching which is boring and/or forceful and preaching which invites all into a closer relationship with God. It includes those scholars of homiletics who stress the need for diligent and careful study of scripture in order to deliver didactic preaching which directs the thinking and responses of listeners. It also gives attention to those scholars who stress the importance of living in and with the scriptures in order to generate preaching which is expectant that such attentiveness to scripture and to lived experience will generate openings for an encounter with God.

The thesis examines the issues that give rise to boring and ineffective preaching and maintains that the contrast between non-didactic and didactic preaching is critically important in determining preaching outcomes. It defines these terms – non-didactic preaching and didactic preaching – as they are used in the thesis, and accepts the reality that they can be identified as a polarity of preferred styles which nevertheless are best positioned on a continuum, as the delivery of preaching will be weighted toward either end of this continuum

The thesis then reflects on a research project that invited a group of Uniting Church in Australia ministers who preach regularly to engage a non-didactic approach to preaching by examining their self-understanding as both preachers and hearers of sermons; exposing them to non-didactic methodologies; and evaluating the extent to which this exposure resulted in changes to their attitudes to preaching, and practices as, preachers.

The methodology used in this interactive project was a cycle of Action Research in which participants’ contributions were expected to shape the quality and content of the discussions in each group meeting, and the ultimate direction of the research.
The results of the research are mixed; and they do indicate the value for participants of examining their approaches to preaching, future directions for additional research, and the benefits of exposing Uniting Church preachers to preaching weighted towards non-didacticism.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Ministry
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Thomson, Cathy, Principal Supervisor, External person
  • Roulston, John, Co-Supervisor, External person
Award date24 Mar 2023
Place of PublicationCanberra, ACT
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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