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Make The Word Come Alive: Lessons From Laity (Channels of Listening) [Paperback]

By Mary Alice Mulligan (Author) & Ronald J. Allen (Author)
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Channels Of Listening - Full Series Preview
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Item description for Make The Word Come Alive: Lessons From Laity (Channels of Listening) by Mary Alice Mulligan & Ronald J. Allen...

In this final volume of the Channels of Listening series, Mary Alice Mulligan and Ronald Allen turn to sermon listeners for advice on how to create more engaging and meaningful sermons. Drawing on the first large-scale systematic study of how listeners themselves describe the experience of hearing sermons and how those reports can influence preaching, Mulligan and Allen identify twelve qualities or characteristics that listeners most commonly seek in sermons. They use the listeners' own words to impart not just points that preachers would benefit from keeping in mind but also a real sense of how and why these qualities are important to the listener. The study this book is based on revealed that the participants went to church eager to hear the sermon. They said they believe sermons impact their lives and have the power to help them build a closer relationship to God. In this book, they talk openly and candidly about what makes a sermon meaningful to them and what blocks the message and turns them away. Their testimonies are a plea to preachers to listen and to learn.

Publishers Description
When the authors of this book set about analyzing the data and reporting the findings of their extensive study on how laity hear sermons, they thought they would be sharing what listeners reported helps them enter into the meaning of a sermon and what keeps them from hearing what the preacher is saying. In a way, Believing in Preaching accomplishes this. But what the authors and researchers did not anticipate was the remarkable diversity with respect to how people listen to sermons. The authors no longer speak of the way people listen to sermons, as if everyone hears sermons in the same way. They speak instead of different clusters or patterns of listening that are present even in the same congregation and certainly in different congregations. Using excerpts from the study interviews to illustrate the diversity of answers, Believing in Preaching is organized around ten patterns of responses that reveal the range of ideas active within many congregations. The authors reflect on what we can learn about preaching from laity and include theological reflection on how the listeners' understanding of preaching fits with and even shapes their understanding and living out of the Christian faith.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Chalice Press
Pages   149
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.42" Width: 5.78" Height: 0.42"
Weight:   0.59 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 2005
Publisher   Chalice Press
Series  Channels Of Listening  
ISBN  0827205031  
ISBN13  9780827205031  

Availability  96 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 22, 2016 05:19.
Usually ships within one to two business days from La Vergne, TN.
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More About Mary Alice Mulligan & Ronald J. Allen

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! 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. "Mary Alice Mulligan

Mary Alice Mulligan has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Channels of Listening

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy > Preaching
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality

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Books > Church & Ministry > Pastoral Help > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about Make The Word Come Alive: Lessons From Laity (Channels of Listening)?

Lively insights  Mar 8, 2006
'Make the Word Come Alive' is the fourth volume in the Channels of Listening series, a Lilly Endowment funded study to learn how people listen to, understand and respond to sermons in different churches. The study involved a diverse collection of people, congregations and scholars at my seminary and elsewhere. The first three volumes have been published over the last year or so, and include 'Listening to Listeners', 'Hearing The Sermon: Relationship / Content / Feeling', and 'Believing In Preaching: What Listeners Hear In Sermons'.

With this particular volume, the data collected is used to identify shared elements. 'The twelve chapters of this book lift up twelve qualities that many listeners find appealing in sermons.' The purpose is to advise preachers to help them provide more effective sermons.

To be sure, there are far more than twelve elements to a good sermon. However, those listed here are the ones that most consistently were mentioned across the board by interviewees. Also, there is a great diversity of opinion present in the data collected by this study, and there is no one-size-fits-all kind of formula or construct for effective preaching. 'Indeed, within the same chapter, we cite interviewees who say they are turned off by some of the very qualities of preaching others report here as inviting.' As a preacher myself, I can testify to the validity of this observation - when I invited my congregation board to critique my preaching as part of a study, there were elements of my own preaching that some simultaneously strongly liked and strongly disliked.

Included among the items highlighted here are elements of spiritual and intellectual substance, embodiment and ownership, and practical effective speaking tips. These are on some level often common sensical - preachers who live the preaching (practice what they preach) are probably more effective or seen to have more authority; making the sermon clear in simple (as opposed to simplistic) and clear language will be better received than sermons designed to impress the congregation with the theological complexity of the preacher's education. That being said, people do want theological substance and honest answers, and don't want censored sermons that shy away from complex or real world issues.

As I was reading through this book (and I must confess, I had already read the earlier three volumes in the series, as well as a number of other books by authors Ron Allen and Mary Alice Mulligan), I kept seeing themes that were already familiar, but were brought into great clarity. I think that most preachers will find things that they recognise about themselves, both in things that they are doing right as well as elements for improvement.

Authors Allen and Mulligan draw extensively on the feedback of the interviewees for this volume - 263 of them - and use direct quotes from them frequently. Many preachers should be able to see these quotations as possible if not likely from their own congregation members; there were times when I wondered if some of my own congregants were among those being interviewed, the quotes seem so appropriate for certain individuals in my own community.

This book is the kind of book most likely read by preachers and seminarians, but will also be of benefit to those who are listeners of sermons, to enable them to be more aware of their own experiences and responses. This is not the kind of book that is designed to give preachers a system for producing lightning-rod sermons every Sunday - however, congregation members often don't expect this. According to one interviewee:

'I don't expect every sermon every week to be stunning. A lot of times sermons grow on you. You come to understand a person's way of preaching. They can have a power over a period of weeks that is maybe not stunning the first time.'

Allen likens this to a slow drip in a faucet that has negligible effects in the short term, but dramatic effects in the longer term. Perhaps the example of a stream carving a valley in the desert would also be appropriate here - over the course of time, the simple stream can form a Grand Canyon where none was before, but it is not the particular flow of water on any given day that achieves this, but rather the accumulation of effects over time.

I was fortunate to have both Mary Alice Mulligan and Ron Allen as professors in preaching classes at my seminary. This text reminds me of the power of their teaching, and will serve the dedicated reader well.


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