Reality: Not Buying Into It!
There are several tasks which a preacher engages in which may not be clearly or consciously identified. What exactly is being done in this “chunk” of the message? What is the purpose and the place of the following material?
Therefore, at times, I “bold print” in the margin of my handwritten preaching manuscript such words as . . . .
clarifying illustrating or illustration word study application or applications "Ex." or i.e. (an O.T. / N.T. example) Proof (material and support for what I just said --- "Let me prove that to you." --- ) "__ B_I__" [the "Big Idea"]--state it / repeat it / restate it*
I include such marginal notations in order to cue me off as to what I am attempting to accomplish at this point and/or with the following material. It is a quick way for me to adjust my mind’s thinking about what and why I am doing what I am doing at that point.
What classifies the content of a biblical message?
If we were to quantify or categorize what a speaker or preacher does throughout a message, it might well fall under these four basic categories . . . .
- Explanation: Technical explanation designed to help the audience to understand the technical aspects of the passage: The Necessary Contextual Understanding / Some Grammatical Exegesis / Some Historical Explanations = The Interpretation of the passage
- Clarification: Different methods to make a passage CLEAR: Illustrations / Carefully Worded Definition / Analogies / Old-New Testament Examples / Metaphors / Specific Wording / Simplification
- Persuasion: Moving the audience to “Buy Into” what the Scripture passage says: What The Passage Teaches / Why Alternate Understandings Are Mistaken / The Legitimate Implications Of The Passage / The Various Life Applications
- Application: Applying the truth or principle to various areas of life: Instruction / Caution / Exhortation / Rebuke / Correction / Encouragement / Advice / Warning / Counsel-Direction
Perhaps there is another category, or one of the categories could easily be broken down into two distinct and obvious categories. Nonetheless, these four categories will work for this discussion of pulpit communication.
√ #1) Some of the time is taken up with helping the listeners know what the passage is and is not saying. You are explaining the words and meaning of the passage using whatever relevant grammatical, historical, and cultural information which you have learned from your time in the study.
√ #2) Some of the time is taken up with helping the listeners grasp, visualize, feel, understand, and/or imagine what the passage is saying to us today.
Skipping To #4: Let me purposefully skip to #4 since I would like to focus on #3 and spend the primary amount of time on that particular part of communication.
√ #4) Some of the time is taken with applying the truths and principles. This is typically done one of three ways.
At times you will make applications as you move through the passage. As that point is made clear and understood, the speaker will mention areas of application. Then he will move on to the next main point.
At other times, the preacher will work his way through the passage, developing the general argument of the passage and then leave the applications to the last portion of the message.
Lastly, and perhaps more commonly, there is a mixture of applications. The preacher will call up applications throughout the message, and then primarily at the end. Who has not said as they are moving through a passage – “Now let me just point out that statement . . . . And that speaks to how we . . . But let me move on.”
The Focus #3 – Persuasion: It is this point which is the focus of this discussion. It is also this point which may well be a cause of some discomfort to preachers.
√ #3) Some of the time is taken up with “persuasion.” Now, some may bristle a little – or a lot – with the term — “persuasion.” The word “persuasion” carries the idea of manipulation in the minds of some preachers. Just like the KJV word “lust” is typically and automatically associated with something sexual, the word “persuasion” is associated with something wrong – sinful – that which we are not called to do.
There will be those who say . . .
“‘Persuasion’ – That’s not my problem or my responsibility!”
“My job – my task — is to lay out what the Bible teaches.”
“We’re not here to persuade men, but to proclaim the truth.”
“If someone refuses to believe what the Bible says and/or apply it to their lives – he or she will have to answer to God about that.”
Ultimately, all that is true – but only ULTIMATELY!
We, as speakers, still have a responsibility to make truth as compelling as we can so that it affects the mind, heart, and will.
• If we did not believe that we have a responsibility to make truth as compelling as we can, we would not use any illustrations or stories. Illustrations (non-biblical stories & illustrations) are not part of the biblical text.
The very purpose of a story or an illustration is to drive home a point, to make it more real — not just to clarify the point, but to make the point more compelling.
• If we did not believe that we have a responsibility to make truth as compelling as we can, why would we introduce a message with a story from our own life or the life of another? Is it not to make the topic or the passage more interesting, and/or relevant? Why not just go straight to the passage and exegete it – exposit it.
• If we did not believe that, we would not “argue” that this-or-that interpretation is an accurate or the best understanding of the passage. Why would we even discuss some other understandings of the passage? Rather, we would just preach what we understand the passage to be saying.
Is it not accurate that we desire to persuade the listeners that “this” is the best or a proper understanding of the passage? We also understand that they have or will likely hear an interpretation of the passage which is erroneous, twisted, or worse. Therefore, we take time to lay out a case for “this-or-that understanding” of the passage.
• If we did not believe that, we would not work and strive to say what the Scriptures teach with words that capture the mind and heart. We would not work so hard with “words” – “wording” – “language” – “expression” – “terminology” – “vocabulary.”
How many times have we read or heard something said in a way that captures the thought, and even wish we had come up with that! Why does it capture the point so well? Because we know that “words matter!”
• If we did not believe that, our preaching would sound like more like a commentary (unfortunately some are just and only that).
• If we did not believe that, we would be unable to explain how the prophets and preaches of the Old and New Testament “argued” the case when speaking to God’s people.
• If we did not believe that, we would dismiss and maybe renounce those speakers who were able to powerfully drive home a truth with an analogy, an illustration, a phrasing of, a story involving, etc.
We have all heard speakers and preachers who were so very effective as communicators. We recognize that there are some speakers and preachers who are hard to listen to, whose words carry little ability to move and compel the heart. That there are some highly effective preachers who do move and compel the minds and hearts of the listeners.
• If we did not believe that, most and many of the various speakers who were exegetically accurate and clear would all be deemed as equally effective communicators.
• If we did not believe that we have a responsibility to make truth as compelling as we can, we would not work at improving our communication abilities and skills.
The reality is that we do understand that even though a listener may follow us as we explain and clarify the passage of Scripture, that does not mean . . . .
- that they are willing to “Buy Into” what we say the Scriptures are teaching, our understanding of the passage (and maybe even less after it begins to touch their decisions and actions), and/or
- that they are willing to “Buy Into” how the Scriptural truths and principles relate to life and living (and even less as they begin to feel convicted about areas of life which we are not even relating the passage to), and/or
- that they are willing to “Buy Into” the practical – 2018 applications we are making throughout and/or at the end of the message.
We ought to work at persuading an audience to “buy into” what the Scriptures teach.
It is part of our responsibility to present God’s truth in a compelling way so that they are “persuaded” as to how it ought to be applied to their and our lives today.
In fact, various members of the audience may agree that the Scriptures clearly teach this-or-that, BUT . . . .
√ my situation is different from what that passage addresses
√ that may have worked in those days, but it does not work today
√ it is much more complicated than you are making it — for instance . . . .
√ this isn’t meant to be even applied in our day – you’re taking it out of context
√ there are other truths which I am trying to follow and those truths — which I also am called upon to follow — which makes what you are saying – makes this truth problematic
√ I am not convinced that the passage applies to all or at least certain situations — How would you apply that if / when
√ I initially agreed with your understanding of the passage, but now I no longer “buy into” that because . . . .
They are not “buying into” what you are saying!
√ They may not disagree that the passage is saying this-or-that, but they are not “buying into” the particular principle / truth / point which you are drawing out of the passage.
√ They may have initially “bought into” what you said, BUT as you are moving through the passage, they see where it is going! They are slowing and increasingly refusing to “buy into” what you are saying. — “That’s your interpretation.”
√ They “buy into” your understanding of the passage, BUT when you get down to the application, they believe that your applications do not fit what the passage teaches. The applications or some of the situations you are applying it to are flawed or inaccurate.
√ They disagree that the passage is saying this-or-that. They have already “bought into” an understanding of the passage which is at odds with what you are saying. For various reasons they do not believe the passage teaches “that.”
√ They disagree that the passage is saying this-or-that because of their experience(s). They do not “buy into” what you are saying the passage teaches because in their life or their experiences, over time, they have not seen that to be true — [i.e. “Train up a child . . . . when old will not depart” . . . . no, that passage teaches and means . . . . because I know of some children who were raised . . . .]
I was reminded of . . . .
- “Buying into”
- The role of persuasion
- The rhetorical dynamic of argument
. . . . while listening to several speakers “argue” . . . .
- an interpretation
- an application
- a theological position
- the meaning of a word (and how that changed the sense and understanding of the passage)
- the historical or contextual particulars of the passage (which changed the sense and understanding of the verse or passage)
As a listener, I did not (and you do not) always accept what they were saying interpretively or applicationally. I did not “buy into” what they were saying or “doing” with the passage.
Likewise, an audience does not necessarily “buy into” what is being said! They do not necessarily “buy into” what you are saying interpretively or applicationally!
At times a speaker does not consciously remind himself** that there may well be a part (or – are parts) of the message which involves and demands persuasion — helping an audience to “buy into” what is being said or how it is applied!
Andy Stanley clearly grasps that dynamic when preaching! That is why you will hear him directly mentioned “not buying into it” so often and in a good number of his messages.***
Andy Stanley – YouTube in a message titled, Involved @ the 2:00 minute marker)so consequently we decide the best way for us to do that is by creating environments that people enjoyedin environments where people stickin environments where people would come and say— you know I don’t know if I buy into the whole Jesus thing necessarily— I don’t know if I buy into that approach to Christianity— I don’t know if I buy into all that informationbut I sure like those people and I sure enjoy myselfand it was helpful to meand it was helpful to my childrenand my husband stayed awake you know the whole time
(YouTube Version @ the 3:42 minute marker)success for us is that 35 year old guy — who just hasn’t been to church since he was a teenagerand he’s been invited to North Point or Buckhead or Brownsbridge church a dozen timesand finally one Sunday morning he wakes up and he decides he’s just going to goand he navigates the cones and he gets outand people are friendlyand he’s thinking — you know — is this a cult?and people are happy and he’s thinking — nobody’s really that happyand they hand him a paper at the door and they’re friendly and they’re normal and nobody’s eyes are glazed over nobody’s twitchingand – and it’s like – nobody’s – you know it’s — there’s not creepy music playingand he comes in sitsand he feels kind of like this big place and you knowand people are nice to himthen he looks across you see somebody he knows from work and somebody comes up says hey and he knows and – and he sits through a messageand he doesn’t buy into everything that speaker says but it’s engaging and it’s interesting . . . .
Stanley understands . . . .
what some preachers do not think about often enough in their sermonic preparation
what some preachers fail to consciously acknowledge exists in regards to this-or-that area, topic, or passage
what some preachers fail to subtly or overtly actually argue in their messages
what some preachers reject out of hand because they believe that it is not their task to persuade, just to lay out the truth
what some preachers actually do realize because they actually do “argue” and seek to persuade in their messages, yet refuse to frankly accept or concur
Andy Stanley understands that some may not be “buying into” what he is saying and therefore he cautiously, directly, and/or covertly address that “resistant audience reality” which faces most all public speaking experiences.
If . . . .
you have listened to other preachers and teachers and found yourself mentally “arguing” with what they were saying
at times you found yourself disagreeing with the interpretation of a verse or passage you were reading about or hearing taught
at times you did not “buy into” what the preacher-speaker was saying about a particular passage of Scripture
at times you thought – “That is a twisted application of that principle or truth.”
there were times you wrote down a potent argument made by the author you were reading or the speaker who teaching
there were times you were persuaded to change your position or understanding of a passage because of what the author or speaker said
there were times you struggled with an application because it hit close to home – because it conflicted with what you believe and/or how you live
Then you recognize the fact that all speakers must face the reality that an audience may not “buy in” what you are saying.
Then you recognize the fact that all speakers consciously or subconsciously will and must engage in various attempts to “persuade.”
Then you realize that to be an effective speaker you have to address the rhetorical dynamic called “persuasion.”
THEN frankly you accept the fact that you do have a responsibility to help the audience “buy into” what is being taught in the Scriptures, and how it is to be applied.
Have I Persuaded You?
NOTE: Another example from a message by Tony Evans. See if you buy into his “interpretation” of “not letting the sun go down upon your wrath” — link
- Luke 14:25-35 — “Following” Always Implies A Cost. Add that to the fact that “Followers Fish, Because Fishing Is Following ” – Mark 1:17 — and the result is: Fishing Will Cost You!
- Matthew 25:25-29 / Luke 19:20 / Jonah / Stephen — With the Lord, Failure is okay. Not trying isn’t!
- I Samuel 18:6-9 / Philippians 2:3-5 – Thinking you are better than others, mixed with a generous amount of time will produce a break-out of strife.
There are almost 600 of these “Big Ideas” / truths / principles, along with the passages from which they are derived, on my Twitter pages. Day after day, over the period of a year or two I created and posted over five hundred “Big Ideas” (A small handful – about a dozen or so – come from other speakers and preachers which I couldn’t help but add to my daily Twitter page! They just nailed the Big Idea!).
** [he-she / himself or herself ] — I know, but I just refuse to abide by that grammatical rule — I refuse to buy into it !
***Personally, I believe that many misunderstand where Andy Stanley is coming from when it comes to his approach to church. Whether you adopt his vantage or not, it is important to understand his vantage. He is focused on speaking to those who may not and/or do not “buy into” what the Bible has to say. He is somewhat of an “apologist-preacher” speaking to the disenchanted / wayward Christian, skeptic, agnostic, or atheists. You may not “buy into” that – but that is the point isn’t it!
Note: Not all “arguments” need be developed since some “arguments” are conceded by an audience – as the judge states in a courtroom setting – both sides have stipulated it, agree upon that without argument.
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