That’s A Lot Of Rhetoric! . . . .

billy Sunday preach

Just Forget This “Rhetoric Stuff “& Preach The Word!

I just finished reading a book from an author who disparages the use of rhetorical methodology (If it matters “who,” see the link below.  This attitude about “rhetoric” continually recycles — by those who get others to jump onto their personal bandwagon.)*.

The Word Does The Work

The journey toward dividing the Word of God with accuracy begins with understanding the Bible’s authority.  The pulpit’s power does not come through cute stories, funny illustrations, or carefully crafted outline.  It comes from the exposition of God’s Word.  Paul challenged his son in the faith, Timothy, like this:  “I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and because of his appearing and his kingdom: Preach the word” ( 2 Tim 4:1-2. R Kent Hughes explains:

[Jesus’s] logos, his word was perfect.  Whatever he said was absolutely true.  His exegesis of Scripture was flawless.  His application of spiritual truth was the most penetrating in all of history, as we see in such discourses as in the Sermon on the Mount.

His ethos, the kind of person he was, was without parallel in the human race.  The one of his voice, the expression on his face, the integrity of his eyes flowed with truth.  His pathos came from a heart absolutely convinced of man’s need, absolutely loving, and absolutely determined.  There never has been anyone as truly passionate as Christ in all of human experience.

These three, his logos, ethos, and pathos, blended in Christ with such force that he, from the beginning, was the greatest communicator the world has ever known!


#1) Promotes A Misunderstanding Of The Bible:  The Bible is not a book on Rhetorical Theory.  While Christ was the greatest communicator the world has ever known, it does not follow that the limited examples of Christ’s messages (or that of any of the disciples or apostles) were included to illustrate legitimate rhetorical methodology.  Clearly, there are some techniques which are used by our Lord and his followers.  The use of parables alone reveals that there are effective methods for communicating truth.



#2) Fails In Practice: While disparaging “rhetoric” he uses the very same techniques which he himself marginalizes! [Replicate: by Robby Gallaty)

He . . . .

  • employs stories!
  • uses wordplay (“consumer =sit and gets versus disciple= serves and goes”)
  • maintains eye contact -as opposed to reading from a manuscript
  • calls up allusions
  • uses effective quotations from other writers (because the one being quoted make a point in a very effective manner)
  • uses gestures
  • uses emotional language
  • calls up analogies
  • includes audience involvement
  • uses humor
  • makes arguments (including disingenuous and deceptive arguments)
  • dresses as he does for a non-verbal purpose
  • a catchy title
  • cute phrasing (tunes to a radio station WIIFM vs. WIIFY)
  • overstatement
  • personal stories
  • “push back” – counter-arguments
  • useful analogous characterizations
  • popular means of expressing and phrasing
  • oxymorons
  • creates & re-establishes attention
  • rhetorical questions
  • etc. etc. etc.

You don’t need to know that you are, or what it is called, to use rhetorical techniques.  Time and experience will do the teaching of “serial speakers.”  Time and repeated opportunity is the “amateur instructor” for many who learn about the most effective methods of communication.


#3) Apparent Inconsistency: Through his message, Gallaty He reveals how contradictory his position is in fact.  He states, “We can learn a lot from AA.” — but apparently not from rhetorical theory.

He also identifies four strategies from Tim Blanchard, but apparently not from the public speaking.**

Also, the very use of the words “logos/ethos/pathos” are inextricably connected to classical rhetorical theory!


#4) Discounts Some Critical Theological Truths:  There are some key truths of Scripture which can easily be ignored by those who continually recycle this mash-up against rhetorical methodology and improvement.

√  All that the Bible says is true, but not all that is true is in the Bible.

There is more truth in every field of endeavor.  The Bible does not teach that the sun is 93 million miles away from the earth and that a sunbeam takes approximately 8 minutes to arrive on earth.  That is true, but it is not in the Bible.  There are truths about this world and the people God created.  People enjoy variety, movement, change, color, etc.  That is not found in the pages of Scripture, but it is true.  Likewise, there are truths, related to public speaking, which are true even though not seen or found in the pages of Scripture.

For instance, it is true that you can bore an audience to death —  your vocal tone (or lack thereof), lack of movement, level of language, etc.  That is not found in the pages of Scripture (We might find it to be taught by example with Eutychus.  But then again, maybe not?), but because the Bible is not a book on Public Address.


√  God not only ordains the end, He ordains the means.

“The End” — Effective communication of God’s truth — includes “The Means” — experientially learned, academically taught, personally seen and patterned, and/or practically acquired.


#5) Inapplicability To Other Disciplines:  I would like to hear someone argue that there are not effective and ineffective techniques and methodologies that govern the field of writing — Paragraphs / leading paragraph sentences / flow of thought / clarity / etc.

The world does not take such a vantage about communication, just those who diminish the motivation and need to improve as public speakers.

The world is halfway around the world before the truth has its boots on!


#6) It’s At Your Own Peril:  There will be those who take the approach of Gallaty & Smith.  They may be able to afford taking that position???

“One result of the World Wide Web is that it has greatly enhanced our ability to lend our ears to preachers beyond our local church pastor. . . . .with a click of the mouse I may hear [a variety of preachers and pastors] . . . and countless other good preachers . . . .” — “Excellence in Preaching” by Simon Vibert

Today, there are plenty of other places — local and streaming — to go if you as a preacher do not provide a good spiritual meal.  That is the reality!  And that is not “un-understandable” — like it or not — agree with it or not — be disturbed by it — or disparage it.


#7) Preaching — Not A “Commentary”: There is a difference between writing or reading a commentary, and preparing or listening to a sermon!  Preaching is not an oral presentation of what a commentary is designed to accomplish!  Preaching is not a running commentary on the obvious!

Simon Vibert well recognizes and states . . . .

“Communication matters, and therefore words matter. . . . . In recent years teachers of preaching in the United Kingdom have recognized that there is considerably more involved in preaching than understanding and teaching the meaning of the text.” — “Excellence in Preaching”



* video link:

Book — “Preaching for the Rest of Us” by Robby Gallaty, Steven W. Smith

** (P.S. — Please Note: What Tim Blancard said in his book did not come from Jesus as alleged by Gallaty!  It is superimposed on the teaching of Jesus by Gallaty.)


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