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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 Eleven: The content 159


Chapter Eleven The content I now turn to a homiletic discussion of my findings in part one, chapter 6, “What the preacher said”, in relation to rhetoric, cultural traits, and theology. What role has the content, comprehensively understood, in the impact of the sermon on the listeners? What the preacher says—the content, the reasons or the arguments (logos)—are related to specific situations and contexts. This contextual nature of arguments has caused me leave out a separate subchap- ter on cultural and contextual reflections on the findings here, but this aspect is taken into account in the rhetorical investigation. Finally, I will discuss a few theological issues which my informants find significant for preaching, and conclude the chapter by emphasising the logos aspect of preaching from a specific theological perspective. Logos in rhetoric I would like to give an example of the role logos plays in a sermon, based on the listeners’ reception. Due to limitations of space I will offer a rhetorical reading of just one of the sermons I observed, the city church sermon, and limit the reading to one rhetorical element, logos. The point of departure is what most listeners regard as the main content of the sermon,100 and I choose the most recurring content-element in the listeners’ reception—the use and augmenting of talents. The rhetorical investigation will hopefully elucidate 100 This is presented in chapter 6, What the preacher said: “What was the main content of the sermon?”: “City church”. At this point...

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