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Improving Preaching by Listening to Listeners

Sunday Service Preaching in the Malagasy Lutheran Church


Hans Austnaberg

Improving Preaching by Listening to Listeners: Sunday Service Preaching in the Malagasy Lutheran Church explores the reaction of the congregation to Sunday preaching. Preaching has been a significant activity since the founding of the Lutheran Church in Madagascar in 1867. However, hardly any research has been carried out to explore this interesting field, particularly from the listeners’ perspective. This book is an attempt to remedy this situation.
With the aid of methodology from rhetorical studies, adapted into homiletics, this book investigates: How do the character of the preacher, the content of the sermon, and its emotional appeal impact the listeners in such a way that preaching becomes significant in their lives? Listeners consider the preacher himself important, both his spiritual and everyday life. They evaluate his good intentions, whether he believes in his own message, and whether his message is moulded by an encounter with the risen Lord. The Bible provides the sermon’s basic content and foundation, and The Holy Spirit is considered an active agent in the preaching event. The listeners encounter words from God through the sermon. They can experience change in their lives by listening to preaching from caring pastors who create presence for important issues for change to happen.
The Malagasy context and culture form the backcloth throughout the investigation, and this book specifically investigates Malagasy rhetoric, that is, the public speech tradition with regard to its possible role in increasing the impact of preaching on the listeners.


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Preface and Acknowledgments xi


Preface and Acknowledgments It is often claimed that sermons in the Malagasy Lutheran Church are theo- retical, dogmatic or moralistic, that they are not listener-oriented, they are too long, and that people would prefer to listen to traditional Malagasy public speeches. Is there any truth in these rumours? Or can the great masses crowd- ing into churches Sunday mornings be taken as an indication of the opposite: that the sermon is still held in high esteem by Malagasy Christians? The pre- sent book contributes to the understanding of how the listeners to sermons in Sunday services evaluate what they hear and whether it is significant for their lives or not. As a missionary to the Malagasy Lutheran Church from 1983 to 1994 I have listened to numerous sermons in different churches and, as a teacher for five years in two Malagasy seminaries, I have taken part in the training of pastors. Although I did not teach homiletics, it is an intriguing task for me to do research on preaching in Madagascar. Since I am well aware of the con- text of preaching in the Lutheran Church, this church will be the most natural choice of setting for this project. I want to thank the School of Mission and Theology for giving me the oppor- tunity and means to finish this project, through granting me a sabbatical. The funding to publish the book has been possible through Birkelands legat and the Norwegian Research Council. Likewise, I appreciate the assistance of the...

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