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Friday, July 27, 2007

Dissertation Topic Selected...I Hope

This stack of books is small compared to the amount I'll be reading for my course work and dissertation research. Oh, by the way, I think I finally have a dissertation topic of great interest to me. The 3 Chapter Dissertation Proposal entails heavy research utilizing at least 50 sources and the writing of about 100 pages by March. So, needless to say, it should be in an area of great interest to me and something that will prove to be helpful in my ministry and in the ministry of my pastoral colleagues.

My topic will be on the authenticity, also known as ethos, of the preacher. What I want to research, prove, and apply is my hypothesis that more important to Postmodern listeners than the eloquence of the sermon is the ethos of the preacher. I hope to utilize surveys and interviews to get a "view from the pew" and show that people who hear sermons look for ethos as much as or more than eloquence. So many preachers like me spend so much time enhancing our preaching technique that we often neglect the cultivation of our character. I am already praying that God will use this topic to inspire me and my pastoral colleagues to not only preach our best but to actually be our best for the glory of God.

This topic has not been officially approved by the Doctor of Ministry Office yet, so it may get modified a bit. At any rate, I wanted my church, family and friends to know what direction I am heading in so that you can be in prayer with me. Love and thanks to you and yours.


Anonymous said...

That is an intereting topic. I think you're on to something there. Some of the most powerful sermons I have heard came from the heart and soul of the Preacher - you knew the message was authentic and that the speaker was addressing an area that he or she was dealing with (successfully) in their own life. Having said that, one should never sacrifice good preparation and excellence in preaching; they should go hand in hand.

Martin Capehart

Anonymous said...

Good point, Martin, and great to hear from you. Ethos certainly doesn't mean that the preacher won't prepare to preach with excellence. In fact, I assume that a preacher with ethos will actually prepare to preach with excellence, not merely to show case his gifts but to glorify God.

Michelle Stockton said...

Lenny, great topic! I told Scott about it. We talk often of the values and priorities of the postmodern culture and I think you are tapped into the heartbeat. This topic is not one you see addressed so much, but it incredibly important!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Michelle. I'm looking forward to addressing this topic and pray it will benefit me and all who preach. While I believe God wants preachers to be prepared to speak well, I have a hunch he is more concerned about the wellness of the preacher.
Thanks and prayers.

Anonymous said...

Interesting topic Lenny! I can't wait to hear/read more of your thoughts on the ethos of the preacher. While reading your proposal, I immediately thought about Mark 1:22 "...Jesus taught as one who had real authority..." In our postmodern world, people yearn for truth and want to hear it from a pastor who preaches with
"ethos" and "real authority". God Bless as you do your research! Hope you, Amy, and the Kids are doing great!

Jason Argo

Anonymous said...

Lenny, That topic is close to my heart because of my personal experience with people who have been abused by church leaders and ministers. There is a book written on that subject, 'When Praying is Not Enough" because it is such a common phenomenon. When a pastor harms a person, the victim associates God with the abuser. The result is spiritual abuse and I believe it to be the worse. What people need right now more than any other time in history is authenticity. God did not call polished preachers to follow him, he called fishermen. He told them that He would make them fishers of men.

debbie bond said...

Hi Pastor Lenny, You have picked an excellent topic. Accepting Christ at a late age in a Calvanist church, I was taught that the Preacher had all the answers and whatever he said was Truth. Even though it was NOT from the heart what he was saying and he preached to the congregation and not to himself. I am excited for you and what you will learn. Happy reading and researching.

(Say hi to Amy!)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your support Jason, Roberta and Debbie. My focus has morphed just a bit. While I will still be studying the importance of the preacher's ethos, or character, I will actually be developing a model for sermon dvelopment and delivery that is aimed at enhancing the preacher's Christian ethos (aka "spiritual depth"). Basically, I hope to select 5-10 preachers who commit to view preaching as a spiritual discipline and not just a technical task. I will train them in the model at a 2-3 day retreat and will track their preaching for 6 months to see if the incorporation of spiritual disciplines throughout the sermon's development and delivery actually enhanced their ethos, a well as the spiriual formation of those preachers and their congregants. Make sense???

Michelle Stockton said...

Ooh, nice twist. Will you be doing that research and tracking once you are back in PA? You have a year to get all the research done and written up, right? Our pastor at The Vine (the church plant in Lancaster that we worked with) was a Beeson pastor and that year went by FAST for him!!

Unknown said...

Lenny, this is a great topic for a dissertation. It is interesting that for the church fathers godliness was essential for right interpretation of the Scriptures. While I'm not a big fan of postmodernism, there are some elements of truth to some of its critique against modernism, espeically where the preaching of the Word of God that became a canned approach. I agree that a lot of people today need to see authenticity if communication of the truth is going to have its full impact.
I totally agree that preaching is a spiritual exercise not just a technical task. I can't help but think of some of the greats in church history like Jonathan Edwards [and Wesley ;)] who had a deep piety and fervor and it only bettered their preaching. The puritans used to speak of the dangers of an uncoverted ministry... I can't help but wonder if we see similar things in the need for authenticity today. We need to really know the love of God to preach Christ and Him crucifed. This is such a great topic, I hope God uses you to impact preachers in our generation.
Hope your studies go well. Say hi to your family for us.
God Bless.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Tim. You "hit the nail on the head" about the topic. I appreciate your confirmation of the topic and pray with you that God would raise up our generation of preachers to speak with the ethos of Christ.
Blessings and keep in touch,

Anonymous said...

It must be difficult under (until most recently) the constant demand to minister to others versus when God's Spirit impresses you with new dimensions of personal growth and then discerning where/when/if (at all) it must be/should be shared in any format. I would encourage you to ruminate a bit more on this dissertation issue! When I think about the process of imbibbing, digesting, internalizing with the express purpose to be given to others, I employ conservative concern. Even greater, under the pressure of preparation and deadlines, I would rethink the topic as you are already a gifted speaker and might benefit from a different doctoral defense. I have assisted 3 other individuals currently holders of Doctorates through their entire dissertation- I am very familiar with the process. So, keep in mind that the dissertation will not only need the preparation and presentation, but the defense and publication afterwards! What does your Cmty chair/mentor incline towards? Do you want to own this topic and can many colleages (not necessarily lay congregents) benefit from this effort? In 50 years, what spiritual hertitage would like to leave to future generations of Christians (if the Lord tarry's)? Further, what would you like to impart to current/near future pastors and church leaders- is this IT? Perhaps it is 'ethos': perhaps not- Search your heart well and deep- then own it!!!

Dave Dion Sr. (I am not registered as a blogger- sorry)

Anonymous said...

Hello Dave. Thanks for your thoughts about the dissertation. Glad to hear that you have assisted others through the process. One of the things I'll need to do is select a team at SWC called the "research and reflection team" once I return. I would love for you to be on the team with me.

The dissertation topic has morphed a bit. I'm still considering the ethos (aka godly integrity) of the preacher but in a different manner. What I will actually be doing is creating a model for sermon development and delivery that is driven more by spiritual disciplines than communication techniques. There's a lot written these days about clever techniques in preaching. My contribution to my own ministry and the ministry of my colleagues is to put forth a model of "Preaching As A Spiritual Discipline" that cultivates the kind of authentic and Christian ethos in the preacher that enhances the Word we preach and gives it a greater reception among hearers. After developing this model, I will likely select 5-10 pastors who are ready and willing to throw out their technique driven methodology and adopt a more spiritually driven homiletic method for at least six months so I can assess the impact upon these preachers and their congregations.

I appreciate your thoughts.

Love and prayers.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to articulate your thoughts- I appreciate it!!! I am very attracted to your emphasing of the Spiritual and Disciplinary components of your heart's desire- influencing lives! You know me well enough to know that I regard the passions for and our subsequent change from our vibrant relationship with the Godhead (made possible only by/after regeneration)! Of note is especially developing sensitivity to and a conduit for the Holy Spirit throughout all facets of ministry! Bravo!! Go for it!!! Also, I'm also thinking: can you/should you need statisical evidence for your defense? Why not go wider: can you add the component of different levels of skema/orientation/experience (seminary students, recent graduates, newly placed pastors and seasoned/well established pastors) who might be willing to participate with you so as to add dimensional measurements/influence levels/barometers to your dissertation? How are you going to gage the process/progress other than each participants willingness? Will the changes include congregational change, ministry involvement, tithing (I'm thinking looking for wider/total life changes on the part of the believer reflecting emotional, physical, mental, financial, social, family system changes)? Are you going to develop sequential survey's, milestone events, personal change markers? Tough to find a sensitive, appropriate but accurate devise(s) that will help you defend the before and after its employment- Mary & I will continue to pray for all phases of your decision making process.


Rest in Christ,

Dave Dion, Sr

irishtater said...

Hi Lenny,
I was part of the Houghton College class of '03 and you were the speaker for our very first class retreat in the fall of 1999 - almost 10 years ago now! I am at ATS starting my MDiv this fall and so have stumbled upon your site through the ATS bloggers society.

As a postmodern myself I thought I would briefly comment on your important thesis topic. I am glad it has changed. I think that although the emergent movement is large and always morphing one thing can be said of it: postmoderns look for authenticity. We tend to be picky about presentation and style, but the meat is authenticity. Moving to more of a "how do we do authenticity" approach for the thesis is great.

Now - as for developing the training to be used for the guinea pigs. This, I imagine, is the first important part of the thesis project. The data collection to support or not support the results of the "experiment" I would have no idea about - but I have thought a good deal lately about developing the ethos.

My discipline at Houghton was music, so my reflections are rooted in that experience. Instead of pasting text here I will insert an address: . If you are interested give it a scan.

Back to the assumption of your thesis: in my first two days of orientation this topic has already come up with my roommate - both of us having the same perception. JD Walt, VP of Student life and Dean of the Chapel, has been in front of the new students a few times now. The first day he presented the spiritual formation plan to us in the McKenna chapel. The session was at 2:30 in a comfortable, low-lit atmosphere and his voice is very soothing. Additionally JD's boy was in the hospital for rather sudden surgery so he was understandable preoccupied. The talk JD was giving was not foreign to him to be sure and his thoughts were well rehearsed and articulated, but truly the thing about even this small talk that will forever be remembered is the man's spirit. Even with a disconnected audience and his thoughts and concerns split (or perhaps because of it - in music we often find ways to distract us from the task that we might let our bodies recall how to function correctly and with ease) God was able to use JD as a conduit whereby our spirits could join together in community and glorify God. Now not only has this "touchy feely" event occurred (with him on a few occasions and with other faculty we have heard from) but the Spirit has used it to inspire us students - casting a vision of a further glory to look forward to.

God will use this endeavor to build His kingdom.

Anonymous said...

I believe you will do well with this subject. Getting past all the jargon and fancy words, it all boils down to reaching the listener.

From the listeners perspective, what speaks to me is a pastor who is sincere, open, and believes what he is preaching; while at the same time, is working it through in his own life, willing to share his insights with his walk on the topic. He is not afraid to stand up and be honest about himself as if standing before God on judgment day.

Over the years I have listened to many preachers. Some do not believe what they are preaching. Others put on a mask which any good listener can see. Gods word will do what it does best but the vessel needs to be in line with it.
Delivery is all from God as long as the preacher is in tune with God. Just like a fine tuned musical instrument. It can make beautiful music with the skilled musican. However if an unskilled person was to do the same, the song would not be as perfect and maybe not even understandable.

I have heard preachers that have wonderful ideas but don't know how to deliver the message. This will do quite well for them.

Miss you much,
Nancy Marshall