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Posted September 24, 2007

Book: Preaching Words: 144 Key Terms in Homiletics
Author: John S. McClure
Westminister John Knox Press. Louisville, KY. 2007. Pp. 170

An Excerpt from the Introduction:

Preaching Words treats words the way preachers do: as building blocks. When words are learned, owned, and arranged in a particular pattern, a language is learned, in this case the language of preaching. The goal of this book is to provide an overview of the basic words in homiletics today, so that preachers can arrange them word by word into a coherent design or homiletic theory that will best shape their preaching practice.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Pathos: Persuasive appeals to listeners emotions

Pathos is one of the three means of persuasion identified by Aristotle. The question guiding homiletic pathos is: “Why should my listener care?” The preacher searches for ways to engage the worldview and emotions of the congregation in order to persuade them that what is being said is true and should be taken seriously. Preachers use empathy and identification to enter the lives of the congregation in search of ways to connect the message with things that truly matter to listeners.

The idea of pathos can be abused in preaching. Preachers can use manipulative means such as sentimental illustrations to toy with the emotions of listeners. In some instances, preachers will find heart-rending stories and build entire sermons around them. One of the most striking findings of the Listening to Listeners Project was the keen awareness among sermon listeners of this kind of manipulation. Some listeners identified this as a sign of lack of preparation on the preacher’s part. Others felt manipulated and distracted.

The goal of sermon pathos is an open, empathetic correlation of the sermon’s message with important concerns in the lives of listeners, so that they will personally invest in what is being said.

Empathy: The preacher’s ability to enter and feel the lived reality of listeners

According to G. Lee Ramsay Jr., one of the key qualities of pastoral preaching is the ability to establish “communion” with one’s listeners, demonstrating that the preacher knows something of what their world is like from the inside out. Empathy is similar to Kenneth Burke’s idea of identification, except that with empathy, the rhetorical goals of cooperation or persuasion recede into the background. The goal of empathy is to deepen and enrich the sense in which preaching expresses pastoral care and becomes an extension of the community as a network of caring relationships.

Empathy is also an important aspect of inductive preaching. Fred Craddock encourages inductive preachers to develop an “empathic imagination” in order to relate the gospel to the lived experiences of listeners. In inductive sermons, preachers emphasize with listeners in order to get them on board a shared journey toward the meaning of the gospel.

Table of Contents:

Contains 133 words and concepts to understand for preaching. Examples are:



Inclusive language

Inductive sermon


Multicultural preaching




Prophetic preaching


Speech act theory



Word of God