Building Messages: Rhetorical Tools . . . .

tool box 2

“Topoi” Are Devices In The Rhetorical Tool Box

“Topoi” are mind generating categories of thought which can help generate thoughts.  If you have the “bare bones” of a message and you now need to . . . .

  • develop, expand, amplify the message
  • improve a point
  • think of possible introductions
  • create an illustration
  • consider how to drive an idea
  • make an argument
  • elaborate a truth or principle
  • etc.

. . . . “topoi” is the classical methodology.  You can read more about the classical rhetorical concept called “topoi” in a number of the previous articles on this rhetorical technique.


Another topoi is called “opposites.” 

In a message titled, “When We Wobble” by Brian Branam, we see this topos employed.  Here is the link to the message as posted on SermonAudio.*

Branam begins with a typical introduction which speaks to the word “wobble.”

The game of Janga is the example he calls up to introduce the word and the idea of “wobbling.”

When things begin to wobble, that is when everyone seems to get careful, being intentional.  audio clip


Let me state at this point that Branam introduces a great word, which he is going use for his opposite.  It is a GREAT visual word!  The word “wobble” demonstrates again how important a good thesaurus and/or mental word command is to public speaking.  Words like

  • oscillate
  • quiver
  • shake
  • tremble
  • see-saw
  • waver
  • fluctuate
  • flutter
  • vacillate
  • wobble

. . . . are all good-to-great words which are the opposite of “faithful.”

As you are working on a message, and want to generate some content, go to “opposites” — what is the opposite of that concept, word, truth, principle, theological term AND THEN think of  — look up — consider different synonyms of that antonym.


Then Branam identifies areas where wobbling can occur . . . .

We all have wobbles . . . . in our marriage / family / finances / at work / relationships-people-friends / happens to organizations / even churches wobble.


Then Branam begins developing the Main or the Big Idea . . . . (audio clip)

Wobbling affects everything you are touching.
No one wobbles alone.
We never wobble alone.

Let us . . .


Then Brian uses the “topos” of opposites . . . . (audio clip)

So the question is this: How do we fix the wobbles?

He Who promised is faithful is He that promised . . . .

The word Faithful is the opposite of wobble . . . . 


Now, remember, the speaker-preacher does not need to know that he is calling up the topos of opposites, to use the topos.  If you asked Brian Branam what he was doing in making that statement, and if he knew that he was setting up a key idea or principle using the topos of opposites — he would probably answer . . . .

“No.  Not at all.  In my study and preparation, the idea caught my mind, and then I was just kept working with the idea as I worked on and developed the message.  I thought — “wobble” is a great word to contrast the word faithful.”

Nevertheless, that process is a mental process which can be reproduced with vastly different biblical passages, topics, or main points.  The word “wobble” adds a greater and more driving contrast, but the rhetorical technique of using the topos of “opposites” is what begins the process.


Branam then goes on to give biblical examples of God’s faithfulness . . . .

He was faithful . . . .

in Creation
to Abraham
to Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego
to Daniel


He restates the Big Idea again:

The reason you can fix the wobble is because God is faithful


Then Branam calls up the original Jenga allusion and connects it again to the faithfulness of God.

(audio clip)

The reason why you can bring it back to stable is because it’s on the table.

Listen – The game never affects the table, but the table always affects this game.**

Hey listen – God is always faithful . . . .

I don’t care what you’ve done — you haven’t affected who God is!  He’s Faithful.

He’s still Who He is . . . .


* As an aside, it should be trumpeted that there are many good-to-great speakers and preachers-teachers who are not nationally recognized.  Brian Branam is one of them.

** P.S. This is another topos – “Cause & Effect.”

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