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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 two: Research context 23


Chapter two Research context The turn to the listener The American professor of preaching, Ronald J. Allen, talks about “the turn to the listeners” as a relatively new trend in preaching. Of course, listeners as the target group for preaching is as old as communication itself and from classical times it has been an objective for rhetoric to create observable re- sponses from the listeners. The communication of Jesus in the gospels is a good example of being listener-oriented, and Gregory the Great’s catalogue of different listeners to sermons is famous (Troeger and Everding 2008: 8–9). The interest in the listeners’ own perceptions of preaching by way of empiri- cal studies, however, is comparatively new (Allen 2003: 188).30 In his article Allen gives an overview of the literature on preaching from the 1960s on- wards, mostly in the North American context, showing the increasing interest in the listeners (Allen 2003). Allen organises his survey according to five major approaches. The first is the influence of the laity on composition of the sermon, when groups gather before the sermon discussing the biblical text and possible subjects for upcoming sermons. The second approach is related to communication theory, to facilitate a relevant application of the message or to minimise interference in the communication process. These approaches all underlie an analysis of the audience as imperative but typically the per- 30 The former professor and researcher in homiletics, Olav Skjevesland, has also called for projects researching aspects of listener reception in...

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