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LISTENING TO THE LISTENERS

He who hath ears to hear gives better sermons.

"What do you think of sermons?" the Institute for Advanced Pastoral Studies asked churchgoers-and got an earful. Sample responses:

"Too much analysis and too little answer."

"Too impersonal, too prepositional-they relate nothing to life."

"Most sermons resemble hovercrafts skimming over the water on blasts of hot air, never landing anyplace!"

No wonder sermons are occasionally mocked as "the fine art of talking in someone else's sleep." Communication experts dismiss them as "religious monologues." Communication flows best on two-way streets, they argue, while preaching moves in only one direction. And because congregations can't talk back to register doubts, disagreements, or opinions, many sermons hit dead ends.

A second rap is that most ministers overcommunicate. They load new concepts and duties on their congregations before previous ideas can be digested and absorbed. Content keeps coming, but when frustrated listeners can't stop the conveyor belt, they stop listening.

Yet monologues afflict ...

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