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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 Nine: A brief sketch of ethos, logos and pathos 137


Chapter Nine A brief sketch of ethos, logos and pathos Before focusing my attention on specific elements from the interview materi- al, interpreted within the framework of rhetoric, I will briefly present how I understand three categories of special interest for my project. I am eclectic in my choice of theories and this presentation is not meant to give an overview of the field of rhetoric in preaching.88 When one person deliberately tries to persuade another person or a group of people by using symbols, normally written or spoken language, to adopt a particular point of view, we talk about rhetoric (McClure et al. 2004: 7). Aristotle is seen as the founder of rhetoric more than two millennia ago and he claimed that the persuasion of others through speech is shaped by the speaker’s projected character (ethos), the content or arguments of the speech (logos) and the ability to move the hearers through feelings (pathos). This capacity is closely tied to particular contexts and is not universal (Reid 2008: 343–344). While a wide definition of rhetoric may be the use of symbols in human communication in order to influence or persuade another, an act of rhetoric, like a sermon, can be more narrowly defined as an “intentional, created, polished attempt to overcome the obstacles in a given situation with a specific audience on a given issue to achieve a particular end” (Hogan and Reid 1999: 9–11). A sermon is thus an intentional attempt to influence the hearers to...

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