“Some” . . . .

 

crayon1

There is more than one “crayon” in the audience!

An important rhetorical technique concerns how you refer to the audience throughout your message.   It involves one word in theory, but in actuality, it may really reflect a way of thinking.

Although this rhetorical issue seems quite simple, I’ve heard speakers I’ve heard some pastors (actually a good number of pastors over many years) address their audience in such a way that they injure that some of them injure their connection with their audience.

It is possible to unnecessarily offend!

There are times when we understand that what we are going to say will offend some or many listeners.  At times, we know that we cannot avoid that reality.   We all live in that difficult and real world, where anyone who spends his or her life trafficking in the world of words lives, will knowingly upset some listeners.

“For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” – James 3:2

There are also times when we never meant to offend.  Nevertheless, the way we framed what we said just came out wrong and in trying to dig ourselves out — yes — we even dig ourselves in deeper

However, we do not need to unnecessarily offend!

“Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.” – Matthew 17:27

It is possible to unnecessarily offend.

There have been times when all of us have when some of us have revamped both “the what” and “the how” of our words because we knew it would sound, or actually be offensive — that is unnecessarily offensive.

Here are some examples I have heard and which while listening I thought — “Say some!”** . . . .

“You’re here this morning and you know as I speak about witnessing, you haven’t shared Christ with others.  Because you don’t care about lost souls.”

 

“You’re a dad and you need to live for Jesus in the home and quit confusing your children about what the Gospel is designed to do in our lives.  It is time to change the way you live out Jesus in your home.  You are ruining your kids!”

 

“As we read Genesis, we know what it teaches, and yet we accept what the evolutionist of this world teaches.  Rather than standing on the truth of God.”  The Lord’s Word is not honored when we do that! ***

 

“You’re in a prayer meeting, and don’t volunteer to pray.  You sit there like a bump on a log and let others lead in prayer.  It’s time to get your heart right with the Lord!  It’s time to be a leader in prayer.”

 

Some pastors may be making a mistake in speaking this way to their audience.  Even though in theory it involves one word, actually it is “a you versus them” in thinking.

#1) You may be communicating to some or most all members of the audience that you do not really know them.

#2) You may be communicating to some or most all members of the audience that you have a singular viewpoint concerning them, that you see no differences between them.

#3) You may be putting people in “all or nothing” categories.  They are either spiritual or unspiritual.  You may appear to have one crayon in life, and there are no meaningful shades or colors between God’s people.

As I see and hear these kinds of statements,  I often say to myself . . . .

“Just use the word “SOME!”  In fact, I’ll even accept “MANY.”

 

Some are saying to themselves as they hear such comments . . . .

I’m trying!  I’m trying to live a godly life, and though I fail I’m sincerely working at it every day

I’m trying to be a faithful witness and talk to others about Jesus.

I think I am reflecting Christ in my home.  I know I fail!  But I am seeking to be a godly dad in the home.

“I DO NOT believe in evolution! – so drop that kind of language!

Hea Listen — I’m here — don’t go after me — I wanted to be here and have shown up for this prayer meeting! — Perhaps there are some of us who are at this prayer meeting — who are struggling physically, or emotionally, or psychologically and finding it difficult to volunteer and pray right now — but go ahead and push me and I can get up and pray — I know how to use the prayer language.  

AND yes there will be those who even agree with the word ‘you.’ — “Yea that is me!  I don’t think everyone else is, but it is true about me.”

There are members of local churches which have said to me, “Every week I feel like I am getting beat down by the pastor.”  That may be because the pastor does not realize what he is communicating, although he does not intentionally mean to communicate such.

How about . . . .

  • There are some Christians . . . .
  • Far too many saints . . . .
  • In the world of Christianity . . . .
  • In some of God’s churches . . . .
  • Christendom is filled with examples . . . .
  • Maybe you are saying — yea that’s me. . . .
  • Perhaps this morning there are several . . . .
  • At this point in your Christian life, you find yourself . . .
  • Some of you are children – some young men and women – some mature adults  – and we are all going to be struggling in our faith at all different levels – (I John 2:12-13).  However, there may be some who need to . . . .

I well understand that some may be able to paint a scenario where what I am addressing doesn’t fit** and if we could personally interact we would agree concerning this or that situation.  Nevertheless, the point is — We do not need to unnecessarily offend!

An Example of failing to say “SOME” is seen in the message by Andy Stanley, “The Problem With Religion.”

Yes, even Andy Stanley does this.  When I heard him say this I thought — “say SOME,” because I think some will push back when as they listen . . . ? ? ?

 

“The problem is — most of the rules — we kind of make up ourselves.

We sort of come up with a standard for what we think what God is looking for — and go for it — and just assume that’s His standard

In fact, if we were to have our survey tonight and everybody give their top five rules —   ‘What do you think the top five things God’s concerned about?’ —

There wouldn’t be one ounce of agreement in this room.

We don’t even know what the rules are – but we’re sure of one thing — there are rules and you better do em’ because otherwise God is going to kind of put you out.”

Eventually, you will use your rules to hurt other people.

 

His statement may well immediately receive some pushback from any who feel they should not be cast into that “everyone in this room” category.

When I heard it, I thought —

#1) No, I don’t make up most of the rules myself!

#2) AND if we were to have that survey, there probably are some lists of the top five rules which would match (Bible Reading, Prayer, Witnessing, Worship, and Godly Living).

#3) AND if I do believe that there are some “rules”, I don’t believe that if you don’t do ’em God is going to kind of put you out.

I believe it best not to pigeonhole people in your audience – unnecessarily — with nothing gained by such a characterization of the audience members.  “Some” works just as well and keeps your audience with you!

Whether or not my thinking or pushback (#1  #2 – #3) is true or not — whether it is your response or not —  I do not believe that any of us like being thrown into . . . .

  • an “all of you” category, or
  • a group which we are certain we are NOT in, or
  • a category where there are clearly shades and distinctions, or
  • a grouping where there is a significant and broad range of differences.

 

Here is another example from a recent sermon (Be assured that there is no context of “some” — It is  “you”). . . .

That’s how we think  — Let me give you another test — it’s coming up — The Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner test  — who should get the last piece of your favorite pie?  — Right ?

Who gets the last cookie — I’m the father — head of this house. — I make those choices for everybody!

The last bit of gravy — The turkeys a little dry — you need more — There’s not much left.

You know — as well as I do — that you should ask around — “Does anybody else want this?”

But you know — YOU DO THIS  — “Anybody else want this?” (in a quiet and low voice).

You know that’s how you doso you can say — that you asked — not only do you ask real low — but you don’t even ask — “Does anybody want this lousy bit of gravy.”

Such an approach can leave the audience members, especially the dads, thinking that they are seen as selfish people by their pastor.  It unnecessarily paints the audience with a single crayon.  I well understand that the speaker may not be intending to do that, but the effect is the same whether the intention is purposeful or not!

Such could be avoided by the word “some,” or by setting up the contextual framework of “some” prior to such comments.

  • “There are some this Thanksgiving who will be self-serving and it will show up at the dinner table. . . . “
  • “Some of God’s people will reveal their selfishness in the coming days. . . . “
  • “Perhaps some of those here this morning — I’d like to believe, and I do — maybe one or two — or maybe as a new believer who is still growing into Christlikeness  — maybe this describes you.  If we were to apply the Thanksgiving or Christmas test . . . ” {setting up the contextual application}

Instead of “You know you do this!



 

Let me close with an example which may make the point.

Isn’t it easier to speak to a congregation as a whole, compared to directly speaking to an individual or family in a one-on-one counseling session?  Why?  Because in a counseling situation we can’t say “some of you here today.”  No this is about you, about those sitting in front of me and the reason I am saying this is because it is about you.  Now I can say — because I cannot read minds –” The reason you did that or said that might be because . . . “you might be thinking.

When we counsel, they know that what we are saying is about them and we believe it is about them.  Because of that, the counselee(s) can easily get quite defensive and offended.

Personal Counseling is far different than preaching and teaching to a group.  They are necessarily defensive or offend because the audience members can believe that what you are saying is or is not about their situation — unless you cast them as all the same.

In fact, when we have one crayon and/or when an individual or family believes that you are thinking and/or talking about them – true or not –  you can probably expect them to feel offended and get defensive.

Few of us want to be thrown into a broad category with everyone else.

Few of us like to be confronted directly.

Whether or not that becomes necessary, the fact is that we still don’t like it.

So why do you do that — and do it unnecessarily

So why would some do that unnecessarily?

Why would you as a pastor or teacher make it harder for your audience to listen and respond?

Why would some pastors or teachers make it harder for their audience to listen and respond?

It is probably because some pastor and teachers. . . .

  • do not hear themselves
  • are on the giving, and not the receiving end of public speaking
  • have just gotten into that habit of speaking
  • never thought about this simple principle that way
  • do not distinguish between offending and unnecessarily offending
  • think their audience is just like them and will show the same “rhetorical kindness” they themselves show when listening, when they are on the receiving end — “I know what is being said when a speaker says that.  He isn’t saying that he thinks I do that.”****

Why Not . . . .

Think

 “Some”

as you admonish, correct, rebuke, and apply

as you speak about your audience

as you consider casting your entire audience into a group

as you use the word “you”

as you pick up that crayon and fail to grasp the whole box.

Just Saying!

 

 

 

 

 

* Notice that I am re-phrasing comments so as not to unnecessarily offend

** Obviously, I recognize that these comments might be and can be put into a context of “some.”  That is, I can provide a context where such comments are all understood as apply to “some.”  Let me take the first example from above and add a “some” context to it.

i.e., — “Some of us here today knows you do not share Christ with others.  You’re here this morning, and you know as I speak about witnessing, you haven’t shared Christ with others.  Because you don’t care about lost souls.”

Also obvious is that I am not addressing such possibilities.  There are a number of creatable scenarios which do not apply to the point I am aiming to make, which is — Some pastors unnecessarily offend — Just saying!

*** There is a “we of inclusion” which says . . .  I am in the same group as you.  This is not what I am addressing.  Even with a “we of inclusion” the speaker can really be understood to mean — I am speaking of — I am pointing to you — not really me!  That is clearly the case with Andy Stanley’s comments.

**** Most of us listen with “rhetorical kindness” and try not to take it personally or believe that the speaker is not coming down on us.  Nevertheless, why walk down that line?  Why not change the way we address an audience if we can avoid unnecessarily offending and therefore maybe even opening up their ears to what they need to hear?

 

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