W. Glyn Evans

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Dallinger, Carl A.||Wood, Margaret Louise||Crawford, Paul K.||Tucker, Charles O.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Speech


Preaching; Communication--Religious aspects


Widespread criticism of contemporary preaching caused the writer to seek reasons for the decline in the effectiveness of Protestant pulpit communication. A survey of current literature suggested possible causes: (l) ministers do not experience the truths which they preach; (2) the subject matter of the sermons is either too conservative or too liberal; (3) modern society is secular, therefore it finds Biblical truth irrelevant to its needs; (4) ministers use poor communication techniques; and (5) theological language is a barrier to communication. This study is an attempt to determine if theological language is a hindrance to effective communication between contemporary Protestant ministers and their audiences. A questionnaire containing twenty-four theological terms commonly used by present day Protestant ministers in their preaching was constructed. Representative definitions were assigned to these theological terms and each respondent was instructed to select the definition which best represented his understanding of the term. In addition, an opportunity was given the respondent to write his own definition or to indicate that the term meant nothing to him. Questionnaires were sent to fifty ministers in the Wheaton, Illinois, area, selected at random from the telephone directory. Thirty- six returned completed questionnaires. Responses to the questionnaire of forty-three church related students and twenty-eight non-church related students at Northern Illinois University were secured. The number of times each definition of each term was selected by the participants was tabulated. Further, the percentage of each group's response to each meaning was computed to provide a better means of comparing responses to the terms. The responses of the student groups were then compared with the responses of the ministers to determine if agreement occurred on definitions of the theological terms. It was decided that agreement occurred if a majority (50% or more) of each or both of the student groups agreed with a majority (50% or more) of the ministers on a definition to a terra. The same basis (50% or more) was used for analyzing intra-group responses in the three participating groups. The responses to the questionnaires fell into four categories: (1) terms for which there was a high degree of agreement on meaning among all three groups; (2) terms for which there was a high degree of agreement between two of the groups only; (3) terms for which there was a majority agreement in only one group; and (4) a term for which there was no clear understanding of its meaning among the three groups. The results of the study are: 1. The majority of all three groups agreed on four terms. 2. The church related students agreed with the ministers on eleven of the twenty-four terms. 3. The non-church related students agreed with the ministers on six of the twenty-four terms. U. The ministers agreed with each other on twenty of the twenty- four terms. 5. The church related students agreed with each other on thirteen of the twenty-four terms. 6. The non-church related students agreed with each other on nine of the twenty-four terms. On the basis of the above results, it may be concluded that theological terminology may be a barrier to effective communication in contemporary Protestant preaching. The limitations of this study ares (l) the limited population; (2) the limited number of theological terms used; and (3) the possibility of ambiguity in the suggested meanings. Further research may be done in widening the population, using additional theological terms, and diversifying the laymen's groups of respondents. Also studies of the attitudes of ministers and laymen could be done to determine if such factors influence the meanings subjects ascribe to theological terms. Since preaching is oral, spoken rather than written stimuli might be employed in similar research projects.


Includes bibliographical references.


vi, 100 pages




Northern Illinois University

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