Don’t just preach it, Live it

The Rhetorical Appeals and Delivery in Reaching a Community of God’s People


            Nothing moves me quite like a good sermon. I want to become emotionally involved in what the preacher is saying and have the Bible verses stated so I can look them up while the sermon is being delivered. I expect the preacher to approach the sermon with logic and have it apply to my own life.  The words should roll off the preachers tongue with conviction and be genuine in the attempt to move my heart to save my soul. It is easier to accept my sinful nature when the preacher acknowledges his or her own sinfulness and asks God to be forgiven along with the rest of us. Preachers must create a community within their congregation that makes people feel welcome, regardless of their past. To understand the necessary appeals and the delivery that should be used to make this possible, we will delve into three journal articles that focus on the goals of preaching to God’s people.

First we will explore how the journal articles define God’s people. Charney stated that God’s people are those who have been abandoned (262) or are humiliated, deprived, and down cast (263). Charney also describes God’s people as the lowliest of individuals that are angry and traumatized (265). Souders describes God’s people as those who realize their natural, sinful human condition (324) while Manolescu quotes Campbell in describing them as “the inferior ranks of people” (162). What can be taken from all three journals is that God’s people are damaged goods. All humans are in dire need of a preacher to save them from themselves in order to one day ascend to Heaven rather than be delivered straight to Hell as an unsaved soul. The authors are straight-forward with the description of the human condition that casts all as unworthy sinners, but offers the opportunity for forgiveness.

Next are the rhetorical appeals and delivery style that preachers must use to properly persuade the damaged humans to everlasting life. Charney states the desire is to foster cohesiveness both socially and culturally within a congregation through the use of Psalms (264). The Psalms, either sung or spoken in verse, should be done as a public declaration, as well in private (248). The act of declaring ones faith in public will allow others the chance to humiliate the speaker, but holding back a declaration of praise or affirmation of faith would be a sin. Manolescu stated that Campbell believed an emotional appeal should be used to move a congregation (163, 165) in a gentle, persuasive manner rather than a zealous manner delivered in the grand style (165-66). An overly zealous delivery may be found offensive to a congregation and should be avoided so not to alienate or strike fear into the listeners. Rather a logical approach with reason and genuine passion will fulfill the rhetorical appeal. Souders is in agreement with Manolescu that the influence and beliefs of the preacher–the logos–should be delivered in the plain style (321) while using reason (332) and natural science (320) to help the congregation understand the meaning of the sermon. Also significant, Souders points out that Beecher stated it is the job of the preacher to develop true Christians by inspiring, nurturing, and guiding them to Divine Understanding (336). This truth will be achieved through being a “good man” as defined by Quintilian in that the preacher had better be practicing what he preaches. This, in my opinion, is the most difficult task of a preacher–to lead by example–as even preachers are sinners by nature.

Lastly, are the goals of a preacher as presented in the journal articles. In Charney’s article, the Psalms are an example of how people, preachers included, should sing the praises of God publicly (260) as a celebration of God’s sacrifice on human’s behalf. A pastor not only helps a congregation reaffirm their faith, but reaffirms their own in doing so. Manolescu writes that Campbell advocates the use of certain doctrines in order to promote the correctness of a congregation and to convert non-believers by a means of passion that is communicated from the speaker to the listeners to move their will (168, 174). Souders article on Beecher perhaps explains the goals of preaching the best. A preacher must relate the sermons to the lives of the congregation to be create a fundamental transformation of the listeners (318). Beecher disposed of the past methods of preaching to the elite, the educated, the obedient and those of authority (323) and instead taught all how to model their life after Christ allowing his congregation to feel loved and included. Beecher even went as far as to refuse to preach from the pulpit (324) in order to make his presence at the same level of his congregation. I personally have never witnessed such a thing but find that admirable that he wants people to see him as an equal instead of above those who are listening. Beecher strived for a fundamental transformation of his listeners based on truth through pathos, rather than the ethos of his learned knowledge. He wished to “make religion attractive by the goodness that men see in you” and took this approach to heart by focusing his sermons on the audience rather than the rules (325). In doing this Beecher’s objective was to “lift the lives of listeners from the mundane and normal, up to the divine” (327). This is what a congregation needs from their preacher, to feel inspired to release the stress of their daily lives by turning their troubles over to God. It is then that God is given control and the ability to relieve them of the problems that bring their lives down.

The three journal articles I analyzed all focused on the importance of a preacher in creating an inviting, warm atmosphere for their community. A preacher must realize that God’s people are not perfect and never will be, and in that, they must acknowledge their own sinfulness in order for their listeners to be accepting of their words. No one person is better than another and a congregation will turn away from a preacher who teaches otherwise. Emotional appeals are important to the listeners as they bridge a gap that may be otherwise be missing in a person’s life. Everyone, at some point, has felt humiliated or deprived, angry or depressed, so the importance of preaching and teaching to reach those people and saving their souls is the highest of all goals of a preacher because if they fail to do so, to save that person from their sinful nature, the preacher also fails in their commitment to save God’s people.

Works Cited

Charney, Davida H. “Performativity and Persuasion in the Hebrew Book of Psalms: A Rhetorical Analysis of Psalms 116 and 22.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly. June 2010: 247-268. Print.

Manolescu, Beth I. “Religious Reasons for Campbell’s View of Emotional Appeals in Philosophy   of Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly. Apr. 2007: 159-180. Print.

Souders, Michael. “Truthing it in Love”: Henry Ward Beecher’s Homiletic Theories of Truth,        Beauty, Love, and the Christian Faith.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly. Sept. 2011: 316-339.        Print.

Go ahead...take a swing. I'll duck and listen.

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