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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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PART ONE: PRESENTATION OF THE FINDINGS The presentation of the findings of my research rests on a coding of the in- terview material into nodes and each chapter heading consists of several nodes. The headings reveal the rhetorical rationale underlying the project but I have been conscious not to force the data material in a single direction. In using the interview guide I kept the questions open and was sensitive to what my informants considered to be of special interest. Thus, part one contains some material especially related to rhetoric, other material related to theolo- gy, and some related to the Malagasy context more generally. A presentation of the material at the level of a critical common-sense understanding, which is the case for most of the material in part one, takes its point of departure in the informants’ self-understanding but it is characterised by a higher degree of interpretation. I have studied the interview statements in the light of all the field material. At times I have included a wider frame of reference than the subject’s own for a statement. I may be critical towards what is said, and I may interpret a statement either by focussing on the con- tent or on the person saying it. The Malagasy culture, where the fieldwork was done, constitutes the overall context. This has been a shaping force throughout the investigation and I am attentive to cultural affinities throughout the whole process. The contexts of the interviews are of utmost importance, both in...

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