Researching the Listener? The Paradox of the Individual in Sermon Reception Research and a Reassessment of Preaching as Caring for the Community of Faith


Empirical research in homiletics tends to focus upon the individual listener. This seems equally true for earlier quantitative as well as for the current dominant paradigm of qualitative research. This paper explores the boundaries between the interest in the (meaning making) individual listener and the community of faith in which preaching has its proper place, as its primary setting is corporate worship. Within the tension between the communal and the individual, this paper explores first the indicators that help to understand preaching as a communal event, rather than an enumeration of meaning-making individuals; and secondly, how preaching can be understood as pastoral communication in the sense that the sermonic event could serve as caring environment for the worshipping community as a whole. The paper closes with an appeal to reassess the paradox of individuality and commonality in homiletical discourse and to broaden the scope of (empirical) research in homiletics.

Preaching Promise within the Paradoxes of Life