Part of an audience’s response and the speaker’s credibility is determined by our the accuracy of out words. The continuum of an audience runs from “supportive” to “suspicious.” There will be those who will believe the pastor or teacher just because he is the pastor-teacher. They just really regard him and his position. Then there will be those at the other end of the spectrum who are analytical to critical. As they are listening, they are determining whether or not they actually agree with what is being said — even in a biblical “Berean” sense.
Across that continuum are others who represent all the overlapping shades . . . .
- some who are analytical to critical when it comes to a particular topic about which they are well informed (prophecy, dispensationalism, spiritual gifts).
- some who are analytical to critical when it comes to a particular topic they have strong convictions about (the Rapture, biblical numerology, translations).
- some who say – “I don’t know Greek or Hebrew and the pastor does, so he is right and I must be mistaken in my understanding of that verse.”
- some who just absorb the message passively, merely looking for something to take away from the hour.
- some who are just new believers and are working on putting the parts and pieces together.
- some who also pastors or teachers who have preached on that passage and disagree with what is generally being said, or looking to be persuaded otherwise.
- some who are “Neophyte Bible Scholars” who know that you missed the whole point of what was really in the passage.
- some who just love the pastor and if he says that is what the Bible teaches, then that is what it teaches!
At times the speaker can lessen the audience’s response and his own credibility by making statements which are far too all-inclusive, which cause some to say — “I don’t know if that is true.”
Some or maybe many listeners will elect to be “rhetorically gracious” — “I know what he is saying or trying to say.”
Some listeners will chalk it up to “rhetorical hyperbole” — “He’s going a little over the top on that comment, but in order to make the point.”
Some listeners will say —
“Where does the verse say that?”
“Where is that found in the Bible.”
“Chapter and verse please.”
I just saw that happen on a Twitter post. A person made a statement, and the response under it was – “Where is this found in the Bible? Chapter & Verse Please!” It reminded me of the tendency to make all-inclusive statements which hinder both people responding to God’s truth and diminish the speaker’s credibility.
Here’s another one I recently read (by a well-known national speaker) . . . .
“Married couples who “choose” not to have kids are selfish, yes, and are also forsaking one of the primary reasons for the marriage to begin with.”
I want to say — “Really! – There are no good reasons for not having children when you are physically able to have children? It is only a selfish choice?
- How about one’s age? Can I chose not to have a child or another child because I believe it can be problematic or even dangerous to have a child at this age?
- How about your age as it relates to having your first child?
- How about the health of one of the parents as it relates to that parent’s future life-expectancy in that family?
- How about some genetic information which has come to light or has been revealed by a previous birth? I know a family whose first two children were born with a significant birth defect, even though they were told after the first child’s birth that the odds of it happening again were minute. I would not fault them for “choosing” not to have another child after the first child, and especially after the second child.
- Then, by the way, what would justify choosing to stop having children at any point in time? Why should one choose to stop having children through all the child-bearing years?
Now when I hear such a comment I can say — “I understand the point that he is making.” Nevertheless, such all-inclusive statements are unnecessary, and if they show up too often, there is a dismissive response that begins to develop.
How about other such comments . . . .
“You will never be content in marriage if you can’t be content as a single.”
Are you sure?
Were all of us content as a single person before we were married?
“Contentment requires a partnership — and it does — you how you fight to be content — with someone else — it works so much better with someone else. You and I are contentment partners.”
That statement uses “requires” and then says “works so much better.”
Which is it? Does it require or does it work better?
“We are never to be content because of circumstances. Our contentment is never connected to circumstances.”
Are you sure? Contentment never comes from the circumstances, like the circumstances of abundance? — (Philippians 4:11-12)
Might it not be better to say . . . .
“We are never to be content only because of circumstances.”
“We are never to find our contentment only in good circumstances, but also when the circumstances turn bad. We can still find contentment then as well.”
— Philippians 4:11-12
These kinds of all-inclusive statement eat away at one’s own credibility and influence as a speaker. These all-inclusive words and comments can make it more difficult for a listener to respond.
It is a matter of thinking differently when it comes to using such all-inclusive phrasing and terms. “Hear” these words when you use them. Your audience does!
- will never
- anyone who
- no one
- everyone knows
- it will
Anyone of these words may indeed reflect the reality of what you are expressing. Nevertheless, in many cases, other ways of phrasing what you are expressing can be more accurately done by saying . . .
- most all
- almost never
- may not
- might never
- may completely
- it could
- it might
- it’s been known to
- it could / might / has
- you might find out that
- it happens . . . . it happens often
- a lot
- a good number
- may well
If you are expecting an audience to be interacting with you mentally (and you are not merely counting on them to be “passively loyal” in regards to whatever you have to say) then you need to expect that there is a “critical” element which goes along with their listening.
Some of the most attention catching words you can throw around in a message or speech are always and never. They just about beg people to ask, “Really? — Never! Always!
- Not even if God steps in and . . .?
- Not even if God’s grace and kindness surpass our sinful choices?
- Not even if the Rapture comes first?
- Not even if the Lord decides to step into that person’s life and . . . ?
Never! Always! — Really?
By the way, grammar rules state that we are never to start a sentence with a lower-case letter! Really? How about “iPhones are expensive.”
Just make a statement that uses the word “always” and/or “never,” and you will always elicit a response!
. . . . but it is also clear that we need them in the church — that men are critical in God’s kingdom plan — when Satan wanted to make his move he would always think to get rid of the males — in Pharaoh’s Egypt — Pharaoh said kill all the males — Herod– kill all the male children so we can get to this so-called King of the Jews — get rid of the men or the men to be — in order to stifle the culture.
— Tony Evans, Men Need the Church
Really??? Satan would ALWAYS think to get rid of the males?