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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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Introduction 1


Introduction Preaching in Madagascar is a many-faceted phenomenon, with several dif- ferent denominations, old and new churches, experienced and inexperienced preachers. Churches are spread throughout the island, and the Sunday morn- ing services in many places are overcrowded. The present project is about preaching in the Malagasy Lutheran Church (MLC), where sermons consti- tute an important and regular part of every Sunday worship service. I have asked myself: What impression does the audience have of preach- ing in contemporary Malagasy Lutheran Church Sunday services? There are substantial differences, and first and foremost, it depends on the pastor and the church in question. We find much good and enriching preaching, charac- terised by a sound theology, use of stories that people understand, interpreta- tion of key words in the biblical text, presentation of new perspectives from the texts, a valid contextualisation and a good communication with the lis- teners. Nevertheless, some less appreciative responses are also heard. The following are examples:1 • Pastors preach rather theoretically and lead people back in time, to Pal- estine and Galilee. It may be a nice trip but what about the journey back to my village, my home and my work situation? • Sermons tend to be dogmatic, i.e., a preaching to the intellect, defending the dogmas of the church. Some even suspect that this may be an oppor- tunity for the pastor to show his theological knowledge. • The sermons are sometimes moralistic, reiterating what people ought to do, rather than preaching the Gospel of what...

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