How Can They Hear Without a Preacher? The Possibilities of Morally Imaginative Preaching in the Small Membership Church Open Access

Fletcher, Bart A. (Spring 2021)

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The small membership church, defined as less than 100 in average morning worship attendance, is a growing segment across the North American religious landscape. By nature, this size congregation is resistant to intervention and tends toward conserving self-preservation. Any innovation must be fulsome and, from the beginning, mutually engage pastor and people in the change process. Identifying the pastor’s preaching role as foundational, and utilizing moral imagination to shape the preaching task, this project asserts that morally imaginative preaching in a small membership church creates a significant opportunity to transform a congregation’s mindset from inward to outward. To measure mindset change (individually and corporately), this project engages selected listeners via a survey instrument administered four times, which provides data throughout the duration of the six-week sermon series. This data identifies at which stage of change, in the Transtheoretical Model (TTM), listeners find themselves. The preacher considers this data as he or she prepares the weekly sermon, strategizing homiletical interventions to deeper levels of change. This project offers a four-part preaching preparation process to structure the preacher’s exegetical, hermeneutical, homiletical and transformational goals. At the end of the six-week sermon series, the preacher gathers the selected listeners to review their individual data and the congregation’s corporate data as a means to understand the change process. The participants, having experienced change and analyzed real-life contextual patterns of transformation, become equipped as leaders to help the congregation take its next faithful steps toward missional effectiveness.

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