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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 Six: What the preacher said 77


Chapter Six What the preacher said What is the role of the content of the sermon, comprehensively understood, in the listeners’ experience of being addressed by the preacher? This is the theme of the present chapter. I present how my informants evaluate what the preacher says and the ways he communicates the content in order for the sermon to be important for them. What was the main content of the sermon? It is possible to answer the above question very shortly. The transcription of the sermons is already presented above, so take your time and read the ser- mons (again). The focus in this project is not an interested reader’s evalua- tion of the main content, however, nor my opinion as a researcher. I investigate what the Malagasy listeners, present at the service where the preaching took place, experienced as the main content. Several questions in the interviews reveal parts of what the informants perceived as the main content. I asked them specifically about Christology and justification: “What was your impression of what today’s sermon told about Jesus?” and “How did the pastor explain what God has done and what human beings ought to do?” The answers to such questions are rather specif- ic as to the listeners’ evaluation of these theological issues but there are also scattered hints to the content more generally understood. I asked them what they liked about the sermon, and their answers to this question also tell about their interpretation of the main content. What...

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