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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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Chapter one: Methodology of the project 7


Chapter one Methodology of the project The main problem and the research questions The main problem of this project may be formulated as follows: Why and how does preaching impact the listeners in such a way that it becomes signif- icant for their lives?6 My approach may be labelled effect-research, since I search for the results of preaching in the listeners’ lives.7 The focus is the kind of preaching listeners find important, and the significance may consist in confirming their prior views, challenging them, correcting them, or trans- forming them. I use the word “impact” to emphasise that I look for signifi- cant influences, which have led to new convictions, maybe change. If it is not touching them at all, they will not find it significant. “Life” is here under- stood in a wide meaning—as a human being, as a Christian, and as a Mala- gasy. It is the listeners themselves who decide what is significant to them in the preaching they hear, and I will both ask why they consider some preach- ing important and how this preaching has impacted them. I do not only focus on what listeners perceive as positive in preaching. Questions about challeng- 6 I deliberately present the methods and design for the project in some detail, in order to assist future Malagasy researchers of homiletics in how a research project in this field may be designed. 7 Cf. Pleizier’s critique of effect-research, which asks the question about what sermons do to listeners,...

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