By The Numbers . . . .

by the numbers 1  Drive The Point With Numbers!

The new President of the Southern Baptist Convention has been elected — J. D. Greear.  He is the pastor of Summit Church in Durham, N.C.

His election to that position is what lead me to look him up and listen to him preach.  As has been stated, We can examine and learn from effective speakers, pastors and leaders. What is it with such individuals that they are recognized by hundreds of others?  Is there something we can glean from their skills and add to our tool chest of rhetorical abilities?

Now, with any such nationally connected leader, there may be other causes for his prominence.  It may not be rhetorical, but it may be . . . .

  • relational — This might be a rhetorical element?
  • political – Such is not unknown among churches, denominations and the like.
  • financial – Is a major giver to a religious institution, or pastor of a church which heavily supports the cooperative missions fund.
  • institutional – Was the president of a college, mission board, or religious organization.
  • historically positional – Was there at a key time in the church’s or denomination’s history
  • stature – physically or experiential
  • “pastorsitional” pastor-positional — Ministering at or in a historically well-known church or ministry

You can decide what it is with J. D. Greear.  A link has been provided to his whole message below.

As I have indicated before, there are MANY great preachers and pastors who possess and exceed the speaking abilities of those who are much more prominent.  I “trip” across them constantly and am again reminded about the many speakers and preachers who dot the religious landscape.  Certainly, prominence or position does not an effective speaker mean.

In a message about why God allows suffering, J.D. points to God’s power, Greear mentions the number of stars in the universe.  In so doing, he attempts to make that number understandable . . . .

(Founder’s Week 2018 by J. D. Greear @ 24:34 minute mark)

If God is all loving,

and God is all powerful,

then it would follow that God is also all wise.

And the question is — If God’s wisdom is as high above my wisdom — in any analogy — that His power is above my power,– then it makes sense to me that a lot things that God is doing may not make immediate sense to me   — and may evade my grasp — my immediate and my easy grasp of them.

Do a thought experiment with me for a moment — in thinking about how much higher God’s power has to be than your own.

Think about how much power it would have taken just to create the stars in the sky.

Last I read — astronomers said that there are three thousand billion trillion stars in the sky . . . . It’s got 24 zeros after the three . . .

Numbers like million – billion and trillion — even to me they all start to sound the same after awhile – don’t they?

So let me help you get your mind around this for minute ago

A million seconds ago — do you remember what you are doing a million seconds ago?

It was eleven days ago — it was a million seconds ago — probably weekend – weekend or last — alright that’s a million seconds — 11 days

What about a billion seconds ago? — Do you remember what you were doing a billion seconds ago?

A billion seconds ago was 31years and 8 months ago. — Now, a bunch of you can’t remember that because there was no you to speak of — right?

It was sometime in the mid-1980’s  — the CD player had just come out.

Rambo was saving the world from certain destruction.

Jedi was returning for the very first time — tat was all a billion seconds ago.

Alright – how bout – how about a trillion seconds ago?

How long ago do you think that would be?

A couple centuries back – maybe?

Discovery of the new world?

A trillion seconds ago was – 29,672 B. C. — the first Rocky Movies had just come out  – if you’re looking for a way to place it there.

A million billion. . . .– Now, I want you to think about the fact that there are 3,000 billion trillion stars — each one — they say —  putting out roughly the same amount of energy as a trillion megaton atom bombs every single second.

As we all recognize, even smaller numbers, statistics, distances, vastness, area, and time can evade our grasp.  All of us have heard various numbers and the like and tried to process them as we multi-tasked our attention — trying to keep up with what was still being said.

Understanding “numbers”  has the potential of creating a powerful explanation.  Some would even argue that when such “numbers” are made understandable, it can form one of the most powerful elements of  rhetorical clarity and persuasion!

A Visual: Sometimes, that clarity can be made with a visual — over-laying the size of a country upon a continent or vastly large state.  See for an example.

A Period Of Time: Sometimes, a powerful statistic can be driven home by putting it into real time — “In the last 30 minutes — during which I have been preaching, 3,135 babies have been aborted.”

A Stack or Spread: Laying items end to end can help an audience understand the amount it takes — “If you laid one million dollar bills, end to end, would run 96.9 miles — about from Tampa to Ocala, Florida.”

Spending:  Another way is to “spend” one every minute, second, or year —  “If we were to spend 1 million dollars a day, it would take us almost three years to give away ONE billion dollars.” / “If the government spent 1 million dollars a day since Jesus was born, it would total less than one trillion dollars!? / “If you read the Bible for 45 minutes, twice a day, you would have spent one month to read through the whole Bible.”

Distance:  The vastness of the universe really requires making large numbers understandable — The fastest space vehicle travels around 38,000 mph.  If you could travel at the speed of light — 186,000 miles per SECOND — it would take you over 4 years to arrive at the next closest start – outside of the sun — Alpha Centauri. / Nik Wallenda walked across a 1,400 foot rope.  That would be the length of 4 football fields. / It was 100 feet high.  This auditorium is approximately 25 feet high.

Historical:  Sometimes it helps to compare this-or-that to an earlier time — Fifty years ago, the cost of a gallon of ____ was ____. / The average life span at the turn of the last century — 1900 — was 50.

Help your audience GRASP LARGE NUMBERS!  Else . . . . why use them?

It can make a significant difference because it  . . . .

  • helps clarity
  • is visual
  • gives variety
  • promotes a mental understanding
  • adds impact
  • promotes memory
  • is less abstract
  • makes a point more credible
  • adds realism
  • provides support
  • makes the complex simpler
  • gives a framework for understanding

In using numbers, there are some useful hints which should be added to your rhetorical tool chest . . . .

  • Say it clearly
  • Say it slowly
  • Pause before you actually state it
  • Give time to process a visual
  • Say it loudly
  • Round-off numbers if you can
  • Use a visual if you can
  • Repeat it

Biblical Numerical Comparisons:

Gold / Silver — Money not invented till approx. 500 B.C.

i.e. — Ruth carried an ephah of grain.  That would be like you going to Home Depot and picking up a 40 pound bag of cement and — not loading it into your car — but carrying it several miles — hold it — add to that — after a long day of working out in the hot sun.

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