Moving sermons: studies into the persuasive effects of preaching

Henk Stoorvogel

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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The sermon is a specific genre of mass public speech, which is perhaps practiced widely, despite an ongoing reduction of visitors to traditional churches in the Western world. Based on a study of the developments in homiletics and the status of empirical studies in this realm, this investigation studied the effects of the sermon on listeners and, in five empirical studies, it explored the effects of the use of human-interest stories, humor, multimedia, direct appeal, invitation, and ritual; it also probed the reasons why some sermons can have a long-lasting impact on hearers and the ways in which preachers prepare their sermons and the elements they believe can create impactful sermons. The goal of this dissertation is to investigate what factors influence the persuasive impact of preaching, with the aim to broaden the scope of the findings to communication in a more general sense. First, the influence of six rhetorical strategies, human interest stories, humor, multimedia, ritual, invitation and direct appeal, on the evaluation of the sermon and the intention of changing behavior through the sermon immediately after delivery is examined. After that the influence of rhetorical strategies in sermons on retention and behavioral change over the course of a year are examined. This focus is even broadened in examining the communicative factors that influence the effects of sermons on hearers over the course of a lifetime. Finally, preachers’ perspectives on the aspects that create an impact in sermons are investigated. The findings show that different rhetorical strategies can have a positive influence on retention and intention to behavioral change in sermons. Also, sermons can have a long lasting impact on people. Connection to personal process and vivid, surprising communication are key factors for sermons to have greater impact on people. At the same time, much of the communication process in sermons remains a mystery, allowing for much further research to be done.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • de Jong, Menno D.T., Supervisor
  • van Vuuren, Mark, Supervisor
Award date1 Mar 2019
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-435-3240-2
Electronic ISBNs978-90-435-3241-9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


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