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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 Eight: Malagasy rhetoric and preaching 125


Chapter Eight Malagasy rhetoric and preaching My fourth research question concerns the Malagasy culture and the overall context, and asks which elements in the cultural context may help the listen- ers to Lutheran sermons to discover the significance of preaching for their lives. The cultural context constitutes the backcloth of the whole investiga- tion, both tacitly and explicitly, and it has influenced what is said about the preacher, the content, and the effects of preaching on the listeners. Through- out the description so far I have now and then referred to specific traits in the Malagasy culture, related to the themes in question, and in the homiletic dis- cussion in part two some of these traits will be the subject of further investi- gation by reflecting on the implications of the cultural context. What I intend to offer in this chapter is a more narrow presentation of certain speech elements in traditional culture that may aid the listeners to discover the importance of preaching when it is used in the sermon. This is a delimitation of the research question but since the sermon in this project is primarily considered as a speech, I find it appropriate to delimit in this way. The elements I am studying in more detail are proverbs (ohabolana) and public speeches (kabary). The first part of the word ohabolana stems from a root meaning “meas- ure, model, example, comparison”, and the second part may be translated “word, talk” (Abinal and Malzac 1930: 458, 849–850). Taken...

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