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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 Ten: The preacher 141


Chapter Ten The preacher In this chapter I will discuss how my informants’ attitudes about the preacher may be elucidated by a theoretical framework.91 Classical rhetoric adapted into a homiletic framework is my main point of departure, in this chapter limited to the category of ethos. A few specific traits that seem especially important in the Malagasy context will then be discussed, and in a third sub- chapter significant theological issues my informants bring up as important for preaching will be analysed. I end this chapter with an extension of the ethos perspective, viewed in a theological framework. The research question that lies in the background, pointing to my main problem, is: What role does the character of the preacher play in order for his preaching to have an im- pact on the hearers in such a way that it becomes important for their lives? The role of the preacher The role of the preacher has been a disputed theme in homiletics, especially in a Western European context. The Swiss theologian Karl Barth, an advo- cate of dialectic theology, emphasised the distance between God and all hu- manity, and the consequences for homiletics were a lack of interest in the role of the preacher as a human being. To use insights from psychology or sociology, or to reflect on language and communication in the preaching event, was seen as straying from the really important issue, namely God’s self-revelation through his own word (Nordhaug 2000: 23). The homiletic textbook of Carl...

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