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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 Three: Political instability during fieldwork 37


Chapter Three Political instability during fieldwork The purpose of this brief chapter is to give a sketch of the political situation in highland Madagascar building up to the time of my fieldwork, November– December 2009. This is important in order for the reader to understand the context of the pastors and listeners as a background to the interview situation. One may ask if and how the political instability influenced my field data, Are there traces of the political situation, with its consequences for the inhabit- ants, in the sermons or in the listeners’ reflections? The readers may search for answers to these questions while going through my presentation of the field material, and, at least, they will be able to evaluate the findings against this background.40 The first months of 2009 witnessed tremendous political turmoil in Madagascar. Since his election as mayor of the capital, Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina had been criticising the president, Marc Ravalomanana, and the 40 For a brief general overview of land and people, economy, government, and history, readers who are unfamiliar with Madagascar are referred to sources on the Internet, e.g. The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th edition, published by Columbia University. Especially the historical part gives an informative sketch from the earliest times to the presidential election in September 2007. Important bibliography is also furnished at this site (, accessed 25 February 2011). French-speaking readers may find the book by Rakotomalala, Blanchy, and Raison- Jourde (2001) about the social and religious customs in the highland...

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