Rhetorical Over-Reaching . . . .

overreaching 1  Careful!!  It Is About You Ministry!


  • Acceptability
  • Likelihood
  • Believability
  • Credibility
  • Reliability
  • Conceivability
  • Reasonability
  • Trustworthiness
  • Plausibility
  • etc.

All those words describe whether or not a listener is affected, influenced, or impacted by a speaker.

While there are always a good number of listeners who are present because they hold the speaker in high regard (that is one of the reasons as to why they are still present and listening), there is a sizeable number who are in the equidistant areas. . . .

HR ———–     believing the best     ————- M ————-    highly suspicious     ———- NR


Adrian Rodgers was cited in a previous article, and while I enjoy him as a speaker and while he offers some good examples of various rhetorical techniques, there is a common weakness which he happens to exhibit (along with a good number of other teachers and preachers).  I hinted at that weakness in the footnote of that article.*


Alternate Explanations:

There are more often than not, multiple explanations for what is happening in one’s life, in our Christian experience.  Likewise, Job’s friends narrowed it down to one.  So did the disciples (John 9:2; Luke 13:1-5).

To narrow it down to one, by making a statement which does not admit or acknowledge more than one explanation, is to diminish or lose . . . .

  • ethos
  • persuasion
  • effectiveness
  • attention
  • interest
  • audience identification
  • a positive audience disposition
  • believability
  • etc.

It is important that you as a teacher-preacher acknowledge alternate explanations for what the audience members are experiencing or what the Christian life looks like.

There is a “plausibility computation” which is being repeatedly made by the audience.

That computation may be an unthinking acquiescence, or it may be an immediate and serious rejection.

That computation is made throughout a message.  While there may be an initial agreement, it may flip.  And while there may be an initial disagreement, it may also flip to a wholehearted acceptance.

That computation is made when various assertions or declarations are made by a speaker which have not been “supported” in some manner.  The support may be a clear and an authoritative sourcing, or it may be the “ethos” of the person speaking.

That computation varies depending on who the member of the audience is.  While some members of the audience may be willing to just accept what a speaker says, others may be very speculative or skeptical.


As you explain various biblical truths and principles, there may be some listeners who are uncertain as to whether or not what you are teaching-preaching is an accurate understanding as it relates to . . . .

  • what a Christian ought to experience
  • what the Scriptures teach about our behavior (“That’s legalism!”)
  • what a passage means when it impacts our lives
  • how this-or-that ought to be valued / evaluated / appraised
  • Christian thinking (apologetics / politics / theological issues)
  • appropriate evangelism (invitations / cold-turkey / social ministries)
  • necessary Christian disciplines (church attendance / witnessing)
  • holiness / godliness
  • etc.


This typically happens when a speaker or preacher lacks appropriate rhetorical restraint in his . . . .

  • evaluations
  • applications
  • statement of consequences
  • certainty of the conclusion/outcome
  • forward-looking reasonings
  • bifurcated descriptions


  • “Education today is nothing short of humanistic and godless.  Teachers in our public school have / will / are . . . .”
  • “When you begin walking down that road, it only leads to . . . .”
  • “You will see this principle operating in families today.  When a father and a dad begins to ____ and lacks the spiritual wisdom to be able to . . . . then . . . .”
  • “That kind of music in the local church ______.”
  • “You either love God with your whole heart, or you’re in love with this world.”
  • “When that begins to show up in God’s church, it is legalism, phariseeism, and . . . . “
  • “Be assured, this is what you will see happening when a believer . . . . “
  • “Pastors who dress like that communicate to God’s people that ______”**


However . . . .

 Life in general, no less the Christian life, is more complicated than some teachers-preachers give reasonable assent.

 God’s grace and mercy are always at work, changing many a sure and certain outcome.

 Common Grace is part of God’s program for all men, believers or unbelievers.

 Biblical truths and principles do not work in a vacuum.

 Biblical truths and principles work in tandem with other biblical truths and principles.


When such over-reaching or even clumsy statements are made, some in the audience  . . .

may not or do not believe that such is true

do not assess it to be true of them

question the general reasonableness of the speaker

hold at bay an acceptance of other statements made by the speaker

check out!

P.S.  The same happens when parents move to extremes.  There is a place for looking (and I mean looking — at times) reasonable!


It is easy to make such over-reaching statements — which do not reflect various audience members’ lives, thinking, or Christian experience —  because there are a number of variables which may not be taken into consideration, yet operate . . . .

A Christian’s . . . .

  • spiritual maturity
  • age (You are speaking to a wide age group — from pre-teens to senior saints)
  • differences in placement or position in life and living
  • season of life
  • length of one’s Christian living
  • nature of influence or responsibility
  • gifts and abilities
  • time of life
  • family / marital status
  • God ordained plan for him/her
  • financial / job situation
  • unique blessings (to whom much is given, much will be required)
  • God-given grace and mercy – which is not equally distributed
  • time and/or geographical/geopolitical place in this world
  • personal commitment to living for Jesus
  • etc.



Adrian Rodgers illustrate this “weakness” in the following message . . . .


From Adrian Rogers, “How To Have A Rock Solid Faith” @ 11:00 minute mark

You never really understand the power Satan until you get saved  — till you get saved

You say — well — I don’t have any difficulty with the devil

well — if you don’t — let me tell you why

it’s because you and the devil is traveling in the same direction  — that’s all I’m saying to you

you turn around you’ll have a collision with him

right now you’re in collusion with him

but you turn around

and you start the other way

if you never met the devil it’s because you and the devil are going in the same direction

that’s all I’m saying to you 

is when you get saved

when you give your heart to Jesus

Satan is going to level all of the artillery of Hell against you

and if you’re not struggling against the devil

if you’re not in battle with Satan

now I tell you —

you must be a little better than Jesus because he was

Satan came against Jesus

he comes against me

and he will come against you


While I understand what Rodgers is saying (because I am willing to give him “rhetorical grace“), there is a level of “carelessness” which may push some to begin questioning his accuracy and/or to check out of “listening” completely — while present and passively hearing, generally dismissive of most all of what he has to say.

When an explanation of human experience is explained or argued by a speaker, there may be some listeners who tune out when and if they believe that the speaker is inaccurately or unfairly laying out that “experiential conclusion.”

Unfortunately, in many cases, they would be right in their response!  The speaker-teacher-preacher’s explanation or argument may well NOT be true, accurate, or fair because . . . .

  • human behavior is more complex than a singular explanation
  • the Bible recognizes a number of causes for human behavior
  • biblically, there would be many accounts which identify different motivations
  • life includes many twists and turns
  • the Christian life is so varied
  • truths & principle in the Bible have a counter or balancing truth and principle
  • etc.



Template Of Acceptability-Believability Statements:  Notice some of the words which can be used, and many times ought to be used when speaking.  Not to be persuasive (though that is not a terrible motivation), but to be accurate!

  • One of the primary reasons is . . . .
  • While there are a number of different reasons, the most common may be . . . .
  • There are greater and lesser reasons this happens, but I would maintain that close to the top of the list is . . . .
  • Sometimes, the believer will experience this-or-that due to . . . .
  • Don’t do a “Job” with other believers . . . .
  • While there is no one explanation, one of the most common is . . . .



*  Previous Footnote: It might have been better to use the words — perhaps / it may be that / with some, it is because / right now, with some — instead of “right now you’re in collusion with him.”  See the following article which is connected with this message and rhetorical technique.

i.e. — Some may not “buy into” what you are saying!

Who hasn’t heard something like this said . . .

“All who live godly will suffer persecution.  If you are not suffering persecution, then there is a reason for that.  You need to examine your life!”

However, because of geopolitical differences throughout the world, we all recognize that what some believers experience is vastly different from what others experience.


** P.S.  I am not seeking to take a position on any of the above issues.  Rather, I am addressing that at times a teacher-preacher can lack reasonable “rhetorical restraint” and by so doing, marginalize his influence and minimize the legitimate strength of the argument which could and maybe even should be made.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.