Explaining By Its Parts . . . .


verball building it Parts

Remember:  We are looking for rhetorical techniques, that catch our minds, as we listen to the general flow of a message.  If we can quantify what is being done, we can duplicate the technique — not the content (since the content is not ours) – but the methodology.

These rhetorical techniques add “meat” to the basic bones of a message and give variety, change, color, movement to the general flowing content of what we are speaking about.


I call this, Explaining By Its Parts . . . .

A speaker can help the audience understand or see a character or event by speaking to “the what, when, where, how, and why” of a character or event —  the various parts which . . . .

  • make it up
  • compose it
  • identify it
  • are unique to it
  • are connect to it
  • are associated with it
  • brought it to pass
  • make up its purpose or aim
  • explain its reason for inclusion or existence
  • clarify its desired goal
  • etc.


Several years ago I was reading a book by Jeffrey Gitomer, completely unrelated to my interest or field, but interesting for its communication style.  Nevertheless, in the book, he stated that when one was asked . . . .

  • “What do you do?”
  • “What is your occupation?”

. . . one could answer that question by the effects of your work, rather than by an occupational word —   by one of the parts of your occupation — the part we might call  “the intended impact of your occupation.”  You could state “what you do” by pointing to the part called “it’s intended effect.”

I’ve done this myself when asked by a stranger who sat next to me on a flight from Trenton to Tampa — It actually went something like this . . . .

Good morning!  —  My name is Ted.


Good morning – I’m Bill


Well, we get to leave this cold weather and enjoy sunny Florida!”  Do you live in Trenton area?


Yes . . . in Princeton.


What do you do in life?


I’m on the maintenance staff of the university . . . . . . . .


That must be an interesting job with all those thousands of students arriving fall after fall  — and year after year!


yada . . . yada . . . yada . . . And then he asks me . . . . (I know this is coming!)


And what do you do? — [Now I could have just said, “I’m a pastor.” Instead I said]


I have spent my life speaking to hundreds and hundreds of people and sharing how they can change their life’s direction – for the better –  forever!


[This is where it gets interesting — after he digesting that for what seemed like minutes, but I imagine only 10-15 seconds actually passed, he then said to me . . . ]


“Could you give that speech to me between here and Tampa?  I’d like to hear that.”



Rather than answering his question by saying, “I’m a pastor, at Faith Baptist Church, just outside of the city in Hamilton” . . . .  I framed my answer with words that spoke about one part of my occupation called “its aim,” the part we might call the desired goal of my occupation.


Now, let me illustrate that concept from a sermon I heard, which brought that Gitomer technique back to my mind.


John Ortberg’s message — “Every Life Is A Gift”

Ortberg begins his message with a personal illustration involving his trip to a small village in Ireland where his grandmother came from and where he met a priest named Father Ryan.

Ortberg: “He told me what a priest does. [We christen / marry / hear confessions / and bury]  – He said . . . ”

Father Ryan: “We do it ALL . . . . We hatch em’, match em’, patch em’,” and dispatch em.'”

Ortberg: “and then he asked me . . . .”

Father Ryan: ‘Why would you belong to a church that doesn’t have a priest.'”

Ortberg: “Well actually, I work at a church where everybody gets to be a priest.”

As Ortberg continues, after further discussing that trip and this encounter, he begins talking about the Old Testament priestly system and says . . . .

“Who gets to be a priest, and what does a priest get to do?  . . . . so Israel was in a sense, in a sense, was kind of on this two track system . . . . the priestly track and then there were the regular people track . . . and priest got to serve God in unique ways . . .


  • there was a holy place where . . . . only they could go
  • there were prayers which . . . . only they could pray
  • there were sacrifices which  . . . . only they could offer
  • there were clothes . . . . only they could wear
  • there was forgiveness  . . . . only they could pronounce
  • once a year, only the high priest  . . . . was allowed to go into the Holy of Holies”



Now, when I heard that, I thought of the book that I read by Gitomer.  In this case, it is a delineation of the parts of the priesthood which only they could do.

I might have tweaked Ortberg’s words a little . . . .

  • by adding a few more descriptive categories, and
  • by holding off the naming of the “people group or person” until the very end.


There were a class of people in Israel who served in unique ways . . . .

  • there were tribal lands of which only they were excluded
  • there were regulations and laws which were only required of them
  • there was a lineage requirement which was only related to this office
  • there was a tabernacle and temple in which only they could serve
  • there were activities in worship, which could only be performed by them
  • there was a holy place where only they could go
  • there were prayers which only they could pray
  • there were sacrifices which only they could offer
  • there were clothes . . . . only they could wear
  • there was forgiveness  . . . . only they could pronounce
  • there was one tribe you . . . . only could come from
  • once a year, only one of them was allowed to go into the Holy of Holies

. . . . and this unique group of people belonged to the priesthood.

The parts could include the . . . .

  • duties
  • limits
  • practices
  • activities
  • appearances
  • lineage
  • responsibilities
  • reactions
  • role or place in society
  • rights
  • demands
  • frequency
  • location
  • specific historical fact
  • repeated or singular occurrence
  • associated people
  • etc.



Now, by using this technique . . . .

  • We can add some variety to the general flow of the content.
  • We can change up our rhetorical style.
  • We can lay out the nature of the person or event — in this case, the priestly office —  without repeatedly saying . . . .    “And the priests were given the responsibility to . . . .  and to . . . . and they . . . .  The law stated that they were responsible for . . . .  and they were also required to . . .” 
  • We can bring back the listeners’ minds to what we are saying.
  • We can bring out the varied and many details of such a person or event.
  • We can frame it in a way that keeps attention – as we hold them off till the closing identifying statement.


Whether it be . . . .

  • a tax collector  – like Matthew
  • a leper – like Naaman
  • a prophet  – like Elijah or Elisha
  • a sheepherder – like Moses or Jethro
  • a world kingdom leader – like Pharaoh
  • a deported Israelite – like Daniel
  • a harlot – like Rahab
  • a fisherman – like Peter, James or John

or events . . . .

  • The Red Sea
  • Healing of the blind man
  • The crossing of the Jordan
  • The fiery furnace
  • David & Goliath
  • Shipwreck in Acts 27
  • The Silversmith in Ephesus
  • The storm on Galilee


We can describe them by “the parts” rather than just saying – “Matthew was a tax collector and engaged in a hated profession by the Jews.”

The disciple that Jesus walked by, and called to be one of His disciples  . . . .

  • had chosen a very profitable occupation in life
  • had put himself at the disposal of the government’s program
  • had put money over popularity
  • had the power of the state behind him
  • had the right to take more money than he had to pay back out
  • had the reputation of being in an unjust occupation
  • had the least chance of being called to be a disciple of Jesus
  • had a singular past, distinct from all the other disciples
  • had no reluctance to follow when called

. . . . he was a tax collector and was named Matthew.


Rather than some broad statement about Rahab — “Rahab was a harlot in Jericho, and she was in the line of Christ.”

How about . . . .

The woman, used by God to bring the Jews into the promised land, who . . .

  • would have lived in a great and fortified military city for years before its ultimate destruction
  • would have also felt the security of living inside of such a heavily walled city
  • would have heard the gossip and conversations about the threatening activities of Israel over the years – (Joshua 2:10)
  • would have been one of MANY of this same occupation
  • would have been viewed by her surrounding pagan culture just a reality of life
  • would have been dressed to identify her occupation
  • would have been dressed so that she would attract any and all men of her city
  • would have known & understand the actual immorality her city
  • would have looked down on by the wives of the community
  • would have known some of the husbands of those very wives
  • would have had her door open 24 / 7
  • would risk her own life for the protection of God’s people
  • would never lose that occupational name – “harlot” -througout the Scriptures
  • would come to be a worshipper of Jehovah
  • would would marry the father of Boaz — Boaz of Obed, of Jesse, of David, of …
  • would be named in the great Hall of Faith
  • would become a woman who was in the line of Christ

. . . . was named “Rahab.”



We could do the same with a biblical event . . . .

Here goes — as always — off the cuff . . . .

Water into Wine:

Jesus would perform a miracle . . . .

  • that is used to justify the behavior of men and women . . . .yet today
  • that is confusing in even how it all begins
  • that is unrelated to significant human needs
  • that may even look opposed to the purpose of miracles
  • that is performed at a location of which Jesus is only found once
  • that singularly includes His mother’s presence
  • that singularly involves a request by His mother
  • that singularly changes one substance into a distinctly different substance
  • that comprises the very first miracle which begins His public ministry

. . . . the miracle of turning water into wine

Not only a miracle — wine from grapes that were never on vines, and vines that never grew in a vineyard, and a vineyard that never was planted in a field, and a field that never yielded grapes which were never pressed into juice or fermented over time — but a miracle different than any other miracle



Here is another example from Andy Stanley – “When you can’t find your way back” – 2007.  Andy is a MASTER at these kind of descriptions.

(David) This is a man who . . . .

  • killed a lion with his bare hands
  • and a bear at a different time
  • this is the same David that a late teen went down into a valley and faced a giant with a slingshot
  • this is a warrior
  • this is a man who emerged from battles drenched in blood from his own soldiers
  • who was so aggressive in battle that they kept trying to pull him back from the front line
  • this is a man who saw things we’ll never see
  • and did things we’ll never do
  • this is a man who was a natural born leader
  • people were attracted to when he was young
  • he rose up through the ranks and actually became king
  • not because he was related to a king
  • because some unique about him
  • this was a man’s man


For David . . .

  • he is King
  • conquered all his enemies
  • life is good
  • had a bunch of wives
  • which means he has a bunch of kids
  • life is good
  • more than he could ever hope for
  • a legacy
  •  a future
  • a promise from God



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