It Can Be Learned . . . .

I Can Be Learned 1 It Can Be Both Quantified & Learned


In my opinion, Tony Evans is one of the most effective preachers of our present day.  I did not say he is THE most effective preacher, but he is ONE OF a number who dots the evangelical landscape.*

As you listen to Tony Evans, you are struck with his ability to communicate —

  • “I wish I had thought up that example!”
  • “He is good!”
  • “That really makes it clear!”
  • “This is the kind of speaker I could listen to every week and leave with having had a meal.”
  • “That is good.”
  • “Keep talking!”

As I have already stated, one of the reasons he is effective is his ability to use the common and ordinary events, situations, observations, activities, and objects as a means of . . . .

  • explaining an idea
  • driving a truth
  • framing a concept
  • clarifying a truth or principle
  • grabbing attention
  • exhorting the listeners
  • etc.

You might want to go back to some of his “Example Illustrations” which we have highlighted.  In those examples, I have tried to quantify part of his methodology.

Today, I would like to go through the process, step by step, so that you can create what he does so artfully and seemingly so simple.  By the way, that is the characteristic of an “art form.”  If someone is good at an “art form” it will look so simple that the spectator thinks that he/she can do it — because it appears so “smoothly simple.”  That applies even to the world of sports — Watching Michael Jordan hang in the air and jam a basketball from above the net looks far more simple than it actually is because it is so “gracefully performed!

Select: The beginning is an observation of an object, event, situation, object and/or activity — however you would like to name it.

Let’s begin with the most basic barebones of a beginning for this “illustration.”

We are having a family reunion for a week at a rented lodge.  Someone has broken out a “puzzle.”

We are going to select “jigsaw puzzles.”


Think Generic:  Puzzles

We are going to focus on “puzzels” in general  While it is a jigsaw puzzle which someone in the family has broken out, there are other kinds of puzzles . . . .

  • Murder mysteries
  • Rubik’s Cube
  • Mazes
  • Soduku
  • Crossword
  • Mathematical
  • Wooden and Metal
  • Brain Teasers
  • Perry Mason
  • Why something works.
  • How that works
  • etc.

What makes a jigsaw puzzle different from some other types — or the same?

Hold onto that in the back of your mind!

Go Analytical:  What are the elements,  components,  ingredients of it?  What are the “elements” that are associated with a jigsaw puzzle?  What are all the ideas that come to mind when you think about, focus in on, brainstorm when you think about a jigsaw puzzle?

This is where you need to go ANALYTICAL!

Here is my page as it relates to jigsaw puzzles which I have been sketching out over the last several days as I have been working at doing what Evans does!

#1) Click on pdf link here or below to see both pages.
#2) You are stuck with my handwriting — sorry.

Ted Martens -- Puzzles Jun 20, 2018.jpg  Ted Martens — Puzzles Jun 20, 2018


Oh, did I mention that . . . .

 public speaking takes work!

It may look simple at the end, but it is more difficult that most imagine.  It is an art form that can be learned and developed!

After doing this often enough, as is apparently the case with Tony Evans, it gets easier and takes less time.

Let me walk you through some of the ideas which are in these notes . . . .

  • There are no rules with jigsaw puzzles.
  • It is not a competitive activity — who figures it out first (It may have some of that element in it when others sit down and work on it with you).
  • There are no “winners” and “losers.”
  • There are helpful steps which you learn over time in order to be better at putting it together.
  • One person or a group can be involved in this activity.
  • Jigsaw puzzles have a solution.
  • Given enough time, the puzzle can be put together.
  • There is a lot of trial and error with this kind of puzzle.
  • Puzzles can be simple-to-complex
  • Complexity factors are . . .
  • What makes puzzles more complex are such factors as
  • Sometimes other people see what you do not see and pop in a piece you have been struggling with till now.
  • Some people see “things” that others do not see, and that is what makes some better at putting puzzles together than others.
  • Sometimes we try to hammer in pieces
  • Some pieces almost fit, but then they don’t really.
  • etc.


Identify Key Words:  Look at the above comments and list out some or all of the keywords.

  • no rules
  • helpful steps
  • one or a group
  • given time
  • trial and error
  • simple-to-complex
  • complexity factors
  • see
  • hammer
  • don’t fit
  • etc.


I imagine that you already see how this can form the basis of a really good “analogical allusion” — not “illusion” but an allusion.

An allusion makes reference to some event, people, places, activity


for the purpose of making a connection

with what we are talking about.

i.e. — “Let me illustrate that by alluding to / referencing / calling up / referring to jigsaw puzzles.”


Narrate It:  Now, begin to lay out the first side of the two sides of the allusion.  There are two sides because you are using one to explain, clarify, drive, allude to the other side.

Now, I am doing the rest of this off-the-cuff . . . You can . . . .

  • do more
  • do less
  • go a different direction
  • call up a different family jigsaw experience
  • drive different points than I will
  • clean up my wording
  • develop the allusion in a different direction than I have gone
  • etc.

. . . . Her goes!


First Side Of The Allusion:  Begin with a discussion of the object, event, activity, etc.

The whole family got together for our annual family reunion.  Of course, when you think about being together for a week in a vacation rental, various board games are often part of the experience.  And there are those who like to make one of the activities for the week — the putting together or a puzzle.

Now, there are different kinds of puzzles, but a jigsaw puzzle is not a puzzle in the truest sense — it is not a which cannot or may not be solved.  In fact, it began “solved” and then it was cut up into smaller pieces which could be fit together to form the original picture.

Sometimes the jigsaw puzzle is simple.  With jigsaw puzzles, simplicity is first of all related to the number of pieces which must be put together to complete the picture — “Wow — a 1000 piece puzzle!”

Complexity is also related to the nature of the picture.  Some pictures have clearly defined areas, and the colors are distinct.

Other pictures are much less distinct and have a blending of varied colors that they could fit there, or there, or there.

Of course, the box is important when it comes to jigsaw puzzles.  Knowing what we are aiming for is vital as you put it all together — What is it designed to look like at the end?


You can . . . .

  • add more.
  • focus on less.
  • develop one or a few elements for one message.
  • use another jigsaw “element” to go a different direction
  • use one jigsaw “element” now and hold onto another for another or different message.


Second Side Of The Allusion:  Now, watch how the allusion is easily connected to and/or applied to a sermon.

God’s people are going to go through events in life which are much like that jigsaw puzzles!

There is a picture which God has for all of us in general — to look more like Christ in our lives.  We can see that picture in the Scriptures and know what we are supposed to look like by looking at Christ.

There is also another picture which is unique to our lives in how he wants to bring that to pass.  That puzzle is much more complex — it has thousands of pieces which capture small portions of the whole of time for our lives.

But exactly what that picture looks like has not yet been shown to us.  That is part of what makes it difficult as we move through the events of life.  We would like to see the “cover,” but it is not to be fully known.

It is not that it a puzzle which needs to be solved by us, but the solution — how it all fits together — is known to God from the day when we are born.  It is not a mystery in the counsel of God.

And we are not actually exhorted or encouraged to solve it, but to understand how all the pieces go together — how the pieces fit — they drop in at different times of our life, and we may get a glimpse – we may see how God is painting our lives.




Here is Tony Evans, using a football allusion at a 2018 commencement speech at Dallas Theological Seminary.

* And – yes – there are hundreds of others who are unknown, who are just as effective but not nearly as well known.

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