Homiletical Technique: “What It Is Not!”

Pear Apples To Apples?          apples to apples

Let me illustrate a very common and ordinary rhetorical “technique.”  There are no official names for these various rhetorical techniques.  I’ll just call it  . . . .

“What It Is Not”

In just about all of my examples, I am going to cite an actual sermon, message, or biblical lesson from a contemporary preacher or speaker.  I am going to provide an example which is taken from an audio source.  Before I do that permit me to make this point concerning the art of “public speaking.”  Speaking is different than writing. Writing and Speaking are two different communication arts.  Though they are in the same family, as is photography and painting, they have, allow, and follow different communication constraints.  That is why you cannot just transcribe a good public speaker’s address and put it into book form.  It will need a lot of corrections to make it grammatically proper – as does the transcription from the audio message below.

Before I do that permit me to make this point concerning the art of “public speaking.” Speaking is different than writing. Writing and Speaking are two different communication arts.  Though they are in the same family, as is photography and painting, they have, allow, and follow different communication constraints.  That is why you cannot just transcribe a good public speaker’s address and put it into book form.  It will need a lot of changes and “grammatical corrections” in order to make it grammatically proper for publication – as would all of the examples which are and will be provided in this daily blog.   The transcription from the audio message which is included below is an actual transcription from an audio version of the message.  I have included spaces, ellipses, and/or breaks to fit the actual flow of the message and to represent what it would sound like were you listening to it.

Now, that being said, here is a small portion of  Andy Stanley’s message titled “Pack Your Bags: Now and Then.”  It will illustrate the “technique” I am calling “What It Is Not.”  This small cut also illustrates other interesting rhetorical techniques, but we will point to this one for now.

whoever looks intently into . . . the Greek term here . . . the idea here is . . . you’re walking along and you notice something . . . . and you stop and you get down on one knee and you gaze intently you look at this thing and to you figure out what it is . . . this isn’t a glance . . . this is a stop and stare  . . . he says but whoever looks intently into the perfect

We could also call this rhetorical technique,  “Defining By What It Is Not.”  We are explaining or defining something by pointing out ‘what it is not.’  You might well say, “Of course . . . I do that in my speaking or preaching all the time!”  You would probably be one of many who do that and do that repeatedly when they are speaking or preaching.

However, if you do it without knowing or thinking about what you are actually doing, typically, you will use this technique only as it comes to mind, rather than as a purposeful and useful option in your constant preparation.

Once you “quantify” or “label” what you are doing, and hopefully understand what the technique potentially “looks like” and/or accomplishes, you can consciously use this simple and really very common rhetorical technique.

In fact, I would suggest that you will hear speakers using — “what it is not” — more often merely because it has been identified, or illustrated, and/or given a “name.”

In fact, once an individual identifies this rhetorical option, he/she can now expand its use.  For instance, we could add two more “nots” to what Andy Stanley said.

“this isn’t a glance . . . this isn’t catching a glimpse of something while passing . . . this isn’t skipping or passing over something quickly . . . this is a stop and stare.”

Here is another example of “what it is not” from Andy’s same message on James . . .

Jesus says . . . here it is . . . from now on I want you to love one another the way I have loved you . . . these are your marching orders . . . if you forget everything else . . . . this is the one command. . . . This is the law of Jesus . . . you are to love one another . . . . not the way you’ve been love  . . . not even the way you want to be love  – that’s the golden rule this is the platinum rule  – you are to love one another the way I have loved you

And Again . . .

it’s not enough to listen . . . it’s not enough to hear . . . it’s not enough to be convicted . . . . James says you need to do something with what you’ve heard

Another example from a message by Tony Evans . . . .

In fact Matthew Chapter 16 says,  Let your light so that men will see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven 

in other words  . . . a good word is something that benefits others, and in particular the body of Christ, and I’ll explain that the moment, and it benefits the family of God and it brings attention to God

a good work backs up and become a good thing when I deflect the glory for the work from God, back to me. 

The next line . . . . a very important line . . . .  which he had created before hand.

So what does that mean 

  • We’re not talking about things you have to come up with. 
  • We’re not talking about things you’ve got a dream about 
  • We’re not talking about things you have to make happen 
  • We’re not talking about things and doors you have to force open 
  • We’re not talking about things that are beyond your ability or capacity to achieve because they have already been created 

they already exist. 

The purpose of God for your life has already been designed.  You don’t have to come up with it.  It’s been created before you ever got saved . . before you were ever born.

— Tony Evans August 2006 — we are all ministers

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Stop in regularly to learn another rhetorical technique quantified/named and illustrated from a contemporary Bible preacher/teacher.

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