Engaging the Congregation: The Place of Metadiscourse in Contemporary Preaching
Journal article, 2016
Most forms of contemporary preaching elevate the role of the listeners, who are seen as co-constructors of the sermon. This article investigates how preachers may respond to a call from homiletics to ‘turn-to-the-listener’ through their de- ployment of metadiscourse, operationalized as a framework for understanding preaching not primarily as gospel proclamation, but as a form of social and com- municative engagement. A quantitative analysis of 150 sermons from three well-established English Christian denominations finds that metadiscourse is a prolific feature in preaching, with almost one word in 10 performing a metadis- cursive function, most prominently by recourse to interactional metadiscursive resources. A qualitative analysis shows that, across the three denominations, preachers adopt metadiscursive practices that may serve to address expectations in the turn-to-the-listener preaching paradigm. The findings will inform further applied analysis of religious discourse, and will add constructively to discussions within homiletics, not least by suggesting how empirical and applied approaches to language can be of service to homiletics and the teaching of preaching.