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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 TWO: HOMILETIC DISCUSSION In part one, I worked inductively with the field material in order to describe as precisely as possible my informants’ views on the selected issues. In part two, I work deductively by asking how the findings may be interpreted and expanded in three theoretical perspectives. My first theoretical frame of reference for the homiletic discussion is rhetoric adapted into homiletics, where my main purpose is to elucidate fur- ther how hearers evaluate the contribution of ethos, logos, and pathos ele- ments in assessing the importance of preaching for their lives, and what possibilities this gives for improving preaching. The second theoretical viewpoint is the Malagasy context, and I try to elucidate further some of the data and their significance for the listeners by interpreting them in light of specific traits in the Malagasy culture/context. My third frame of reference is theology, and only significant theological issues my informants bring up as important for preaching will be reflected on here. How do hearers evaluate the contribution of theological elements in assessing the importance of preaching for their lives and what improvements of preaching are implied? Due to my explorative approach, I have not been able to identify which elements in the material should be further discussed until after the examina- tion of the fieldwork material, as presented in part one. My procedure for choosing issues for further discussion is that I have been informed by the theoretical perspectives and have investigated the presented data, searching for issues...

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