One of the most simple rhetorical techniques which repeatedly shows up when listening to both Tony Evans and Andy Stanley is what I call “Repeat & Restate.” Both Evans and Stanley consistently use this technique — and use it effectively!
It is a simple technique, but often not employed by many of the other speakers whom I regularly listen to and personally hear. Typically, an important statement, biblical concept, or driving idea is stated once by the speaker at any point in time. At yet other times there may be the repeating of a main point, but little restating used.
Let me highlight a portion from both an Evans and Stanley message and then briefly provide some help in implementing this rhetorical tool more efficiently and effectively.* Both excerpts are directly transcribed without any changes with no breaks in their content. They are visually presented in such a way as to represent a speaking pattern and vocal movement of the content.
In football, there are sidelines and goal lines.
Those are sovereign boundaries;
they do not move.
You can’t negotiate them, and
you can’t make them wider or narrower.
They are fixed standards by which the game of football is played and
If you step on the side lines, you’re out of bounds.
But within the boundaries, you are free to call your own play.
You can call a bad play and lose yardage.
You can call a good play and make yardage.
You are free to call the play, but the play has to be within the lines.
In other words, the sovereign boundaries of football restrict how free you are without denying your ability to be free.
God is sovereign.
He has created boundaries, but He’s also created freedom.
That freedom allows you to make a good play or a bad play—to be right or wrong.
Just don’t cross the boundaries.
— Tony Evans, The Detours of Providence
Andy Stanley (Using Both Repeating & Restating):
Maybe you’re one of those people — and you don’t really like going to church — because going to church for you is like this big flashing neon sign every time you go — that says
you’re doing it wrong
you’re doing it wrong
you’re doing it wrong
you’re doing it wrong — and you don’t need anybody to remind you that
you’re doing it wrong — because you know
you’re doing it wrong
and that’s why you don’t go to church — because you don’t want to be reminded of that
and yet in your mind in your heart you know really there’s a God — and he’s got these rules — and you’re not doing very well– and so going to church is just — you know — get all dressed up for somebody to tell you — you’re doing it wrong — and why get all dressed up for that
I mean the evening news is kind of encouraging — right — because
you’re not that bad
at least you’re not that bad
at least you’re not that bad
and that’s what reason a lot of people don’t go to church — maybe fall into that category — and maybe further than that — not only do you feel kind of condemned because
— you don’t get all the rules right
— you can’t do it right
— there was a time in your life you tried to get it right
— you brought up the church or whatever
— you try to clean up your act
— or you try to get out of these relationships
— or quit doing these things
— or these habits
— and you’ve really kind of given it a shot
— and you just fell flat on your face
and so the last thing you need is some preacher open up the Bible and trying to find a verse that kind of makes you feel guilty because you already feel guilty when you think about God in the whole church thing
in fact, you just feel kind of condemned
and so you don’t even really want to come tonight
if it hadn’t been a friend that begged you,
and pleaded with you
to get him off your case — you came
but it’s not really an enjoyable experience normally — because it’s just a reminder that — you’re doing it wrong
— Andy Stanley
By restating, both flesh out a point, a concept, an application, the imagery . . . .
- with words which catch some and yet maybe not others
- with words which catch those others
- with words that catch most, but not all.
Let me offer some potentially helpful thoughts on using “restatement and repeating.”
#1) Get A Good Tool:
“Restatement” requires more than a dictionary of synonyms!
Notice how the words that Tony Evans uses are NOT words you would find in a thesaurus list of synonyms!
- goal lines.
- sovereign boundaries;
- do not move.
- can’t negotiate
- can’t make them
- fixed standards
- out of bounds
If I looked up the word “boundaries,” I would find such words as . . .
line of demarcation
Now any of those words might help in thinking about how to frame the imagery or the illustration. These various synonymous may offer some useful possibilities or jog your thinking as to other ways to frame my idea.
However such phrases as . . .
- “out of bound”
- “can’t negotiate”
- “fixed standard”
. . . which were all used by Evans, do not appear on the synonym list above and are not found in such a dictionary.
- If you looked up the word “sidelines,” you would not find the synonym “football.”
- If you looked up the word “football,” you would not find the synonym “sidelines.”
- If you looked up “boundary,” you would not find “non-negotiable.”
But you would find a better and broader spread of words in a different kind of dictionary!
Therefore, what is useful is a hybrid dictionary of synonyms such as “A Reverse Dictionary” or something like “Roget’s International Thesaurus” which includes words and phrases, and/or which includes surrounding concepts or related words.
Instead of saying, “You have committed yourself to staying a virgin.”
You can also restate that same concept by saying . . . .
- You aren’t going to move in with that guy who suggested.
- You have made a decision that you are waiting for the day you get married.
- Others around you may be shacking-up – but that’s not you!
- Purity matters to you.
- Those around you in our culture may be morally loose, but you’re not going with that cultural flow.
- The story you want to tell to your children is that both of you waited.
#2) Restating Effectively Takes Work:
It will still take a creative mind and some mental hard word to restate effectively.
We live in the world of words, and even with such hybrid tools, it will still take mind-power — brainstorming – creative thinking to include some of the words used by Tony Evans, which can prove to be so very useful! “Can’t negotiate” and “non-negotiable” are terrific words to describe a football sideline, and probably would not show up on in any kind of dictionary.
Useful “e-hybrid – tablet – dictionary” are:
- “Companion Synonyms” (and iPad app – see icon of the app above)
- “Rhyme Zone” (Use the ‘Related to Meaning’ option of that app)
- “OneLook Thesaurus”
- “Power Thesaurus.”
These “dictionaries” are useful because they also list out words that are in some way connected to – related to – associated with – that word, and not just a typical synonym of that word. Sometimes they are called “Reverse Dictionaries.” These hybrid dictionaries focus on word families and related concepts.
#3) Weave Those Words Throughout:
You also want to call up some of those very words used in the first portion of the analogy again at different points throughout the message and again in the conclusion — (see the rhetorical technique “Pull It Down & Weave-It.”).
#4) Grasp The Purpose & Value:
There are different purposes and values of repeating and restatement.
One purpose is to provide an internal summary, a repeating or restating of the main point and points. It gives your audience an idea of where you are — it has a locational value.
Another purpose is to help your audience remember the main points and/or the Big Idea. Most audiences do not remember something they have heard only once. It is typically said this way . . . .
“Tell ‘em where you’re going.
Tell ‘em where you are.
Then tell ‘em what you told ‘em.”
Another purpose of “restatement”– specifically — is to help the audience grab a different word or words which may make the point, context, application, audience connection more understandable, clear, inclusive, applicable, and/or compelling.
Repetition and Restatement are fundamental to good public speaking!
When you finish speaking, the audience should have no question as to the point(s) or the Big Idea that you are making!**
#5) Repetition Is Not A Vocalized Pause:
A speaker may be found repeating a point, but often it is just mental filler. It gives the speaker a moment to quickly form his next thought (It is amazing how in the passage of but a brief second we can organize our thoughts words as we move on). Restatement can be and may be just a replacement for a “vocalized pause — “Uhm” — “Right” – “You know what I mean.”
Repetition should be used consciously and purposefully, because you want to communicate the importance of the idea, concept, point, truth, Big Idea, etc. You feel the importance of that truth or principle.
*Suggestion: You will find it more useful if you “bullet point” your repeat/restate list for your sermon notes. Your eyes can catch the “repeat” or “restatement” easier with a list as opposed to a linear format.
**I would like to suggest that it is repeating and restating which will far exceed any other tool used to further audience retention, and it far exceeds what you think is the value of alliteration! What may equal or exceed the tools of restatement and repetition are the simplicity and insightfulness when stating the Big Idea!