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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 Five: The significance of the preacher 59


Chapter Five The significance of the preacher One of my research questions is about the preacher. I wanted to find out how the informants assess the character of the preacher in the process of under- standing what the sermon means for them. In this chapter, therefore, I present how my informants interpret the role of the preacher and how this affects the impact of his preaching in such a way that it becomes important for their lives. What disturbs the listeners in relation to the preacher will also be de- scribed. Respect for the preacher When at the end of each interview I asked the interviewees to give two or three pieces of advice to the preacher, almost half of the informants seemed uncomfortable with the question. Some became quiet for a long time, some asked themselves rhetorically, as if they tasted the content of the question, others asked me, perhaps to make sure that they had understood properly what I was trying to say, and others again did not understand the question, or perhaps they pretended not to understand. “Do you mean that he should ad- vise you?” one asked, and turned my question upside down (S5). Only a few gave any reason for their hesitation. One says: It is I who long for and pray about advice from the preacher. Until now I have not communicated any advice because that would be as if I gave the orders and I am not in a position to do so....

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