An Exercise In “Inventio”
“Inventio” is the Classical Greek Word in Rhetorical Theory. It speaks about the creative side of public speaking. It is not about “inventing ideas out of the blue,” but reflects the fact that public speaking is an art, just as writing books (secular or sacred), the use of film, plays, and music are cousin art forms.
The way ideas are framed, the structure of the outline and/or flow of thoughts, the choice of illustrations, the ways one can introduce or conclude a speech, etc., are all part of the creative or artist side of sermon design.
I have been reading an interesting book on saying something meaningful in “six words.”* For instance, think of ways to speak a message about love and heartbreak in six words . . . .
- “Not always perfect, but so worthwhile.”
- “Maybe some pots don’t have lids.”
- “Arranged marriage now sounding pretty good.”
- “I thought we had more time.”
- “My life’s accomplishment? Sanity and you.”**
As you read the six-word memoirs, some loaded with meaning, others are sad, most all capture a whole story of imagination.
Likewise, in another volume featuring six words by teenagers, some are filled with meaning, and others carry a story of sadness . . . .
- “Honor roll. No friends, ‘Bright Future.'”
- “Family night is secretly my favorite.”
- “Flautist who wants to play percussion.”
- Chose happiness over anger and hate.”
- “Called me stupid, I only dyslexic.”
- “Love my daddy. Daddy loves drugs.”
After picking up two volumes at the local library, and purchasing one on Amazon Kindle, I was caught by the creativity of framing a thought in a terse and effective way. My interest was related to its value to the public speaker. “Six-words” is a useful and helpful exercise, as well as an actual rhetorical technique. It can . . . .
. . . . the Big Idea of a speech or message.
So here are some of mine — off the cuff — after just sitting with a pad and paper and the aim of saying something meaningful in six-words.
Evangelism in six-words:
- Followers Fish BECAUSE Fishing Is Following.**
- Fishing is relational, intentional and biblical.
- Fish, Saved, Follower, Fishing
- Fish, Saved, Follow, Fish, Saved, Follow . . .”
- Saved, Follow, Fish and Still Fishing
- Disciples Fish Because They Follow
- Saved To Follow And Fish
Now this one follows a pattern. It is by the laying out of this pattern that a person can more easily capture the methodology. Here is the pattern . . . .
Need More ____?____ and Less ___?___
- “Need More Boldness And Less Excuses.”
- “Need More Willingness And Fewer Fears.”
- “Need More Fishing And Less Dreaming.”
Here is another pattern which can get you thinking . . . .
__?___ Means ___?___
- “Effective Evangelism Means Building Relationships.”
- “Following, Obeying, Loving Means Compasionate Fishing.”
- “Compassion Results When We Have Shared Events.”
- “Motivated When We Have Lost Loved Ones.”
- “Gracious Boldness Means Sensitivity and Kindness.”
Here the theme is “The Bright Side Of” . . . .
- Joseph: “Sold By Brothers, Sitting By Pharaoh”
- Ruth: Marriage, Death, Salvation, Gleaning, Providence, Priviledge
- Ruth: In Moab, Bethlehem, Line of Christ.
- Daniel: Outlived Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Cyrus, Darius
- Paul: Saul, Saint, Singing, Satisfied, and Standing
- David: Bear, Lion, Goliath, Saul, Sin, Son.
Here is another pattern . . . .
We __?__, He __?___
- We Fear, He Calms.
- We Doubt, He Provides.
- We Struggle, He Promises.
Six-Words About Lostness:
- Always Seeking Sinners, Constantly Refusing His Grace
- Always Offers, But Repeatedly Rejected
- Leaves Home For The Pig-Pen
- A Pig-Pen And Then Thinking Home.
- Uriah’s Fighting, I’m on the roof.
The point of this mental task is several . . . .
√ First, it develops ones creative abilities. Putting something in six words pushes the abilities of our brainstorming processes – “How can I say that in six words and say it in a way which would capture or paint the whole picture?”
√ Second, it helps you aim and focus. As you paint a picture in six words, it frames the whole with a terse verbal image. It captures what this passage, person, event, passage, or verse is all about — Try it with John 3:16 (Mine — Loved & Gave For Whosever Comes).
√ It also provides me with the beginnings of a Big Idea, the driving idea which captures the message. In fact, it may give the actual way to state my Big Idea. I can then take that six word statement and repeatedly use it throughout the message.
For Example: Imagine a message on a passage of Scripture which is focused on evangelism – i.e., Mark 1:17 — “I will make you fishers of men.” As I point to examples where Jesus taught them to reach out to people, I could repeat after each example or passage (Woman At The Well / Rich Young Ruler / Woman Taken In Adultery / Nathaniel / etc.) – “Jesus was doing this because “Followers fish BECAUSE Fishing is Following!”**
It is that full or partial repeating and/or restating of such a “Big Idea” that sticks with an audience long after the message is over.
If you try to capture a biblical passage, a character, an event in six-words, please send it our way and we will post it. Or include it in your comments.
*There are a few examples in the book which use more than six words, and some similar approaches attempt to capture a thought using 12 words or less.