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Preaching: the art of persuasive speech


When Augustine ponders the place of rhetoric in Christian teaching, he concludes that it is helpful to pursue skill in speaking. Here he reminds us that preaching can share the broad goals of persuasive speech:


“It has been said by a man of eloquence [Cicero], and quite rightly, that the eloquent should speak in such a way as to instruct, delight, and move their listeners. He then added: ‘instructing is a matter of necessity, delighting a matter of charm, and moving them a matter of conquest.” On Christian Teaching Book IV.xii (Oxford’s World Classics p. 117)


Augustine explains what means by ‘delight’


“Your hearer is delighted if you speak agreeably, and moved if he values what you promise, fears what you threaten, hates what you condemn, embraces what you commend, and rues the thing which you insist he must regret, and if he rejoices at what you set forth in your preaching as something joyful, pities those whom by your words you present to his mind’s eye as miserable, shuns those whom with terrifying language you urge him to avoid.” On Christian Teaching Book IV.xii (Oxford’s World Classics p. 118)


At Latimer Trust we would love to see this taking place in every pulpit up and down the land (wherever you are!).


Here are some recommendations from our collection.


The Anglican Ordinal, There is no better handbook for Anglican ministry than the Anglican ordinal – the authorized liturgy for ordaining new ministers. The ordinal contains a beautiful, succinct description of theological priorities and ministry models for today’s Church.


Listen to Him: Reading and preaching Emmanuel in Matthew, These is a compendium of essays that reflect a concern to speak into the context of the contemporary proclamation of the good news. When the risen Christ sent his first apostles to make disciples of all nations, the good news began to be preached widely to both Jew and Gentile. That good news still continues to be proclaimed into today’s world, bringing hope to all those who sit under death’s shadow. In their own small way, these essays seek to further that task.


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Ed Moll is part the Latimer Trust council and vicar at St George’s Church Wembdon in Somerset. He is the author of Anglican Elders published by this Trust and co-author of other books such as The Gospel Centred family, and Youth and Children's work.


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