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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 Seven: Effects on the listeners 111


Chapter Seven Effects on the listeners The rhetorical point of departure for this project holds that the emotional appeal of a sermon contributes to its degree of persuasion. However, my project is not focussed on the preacher, his sermon, or the embodiment of it. Rather I am investigating what consequences preaching has for the listeners. When I am researching preaching from the perspective of the listeners, I have to look for the effects of the sermon’s emotional appeal in the listeners. Rhetoric presupposes that among the conditions for an effect are whether the sermon connects with the congregation and whether the listeners are able to identify with the preacher’s viewpoint. If the sermon connects and the hear- ers are able to identify with the preacher, my contention is that there ought to be some kind of visible effects on the listeners. These effects and the role emotions play in persuasion are the focus of this chapter. How do my in- formants describe the effects of the emotional appeal and how do emotions affect them in such a way that it becomes important for their lives? I have looked mainly for two issues in my material: First, do the listeners use words expressing that they are touched or engaged by the sermon? Second, do they recall sermons that have changed them? I begin this chapter, however, by giving some glimpses into the listeners’ closer context since this is a major force affecting their response to preaching. The closer context “What happens...

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