A Meaningful Difference — In Kind
As we stated, preaching is a different kind, species, branch of public address. While it is similar, it is different, and that difference is because . . . .
• we have been given the content of our message
• the content which is designed to be of preeminent focus has been already determined
• we are operating from the position that the Scriptures are from God & authoritative
• we actually do believe that they carry a supernatural element operating
• the Holy Spirit has worked and is working in preaching
• the “creative” element has been shifted (but not eliminated)
Preaching & homiletical theory is a rhetorical hybrid
BECAUSE OF ALL THOSE TRUTHS!
To parallel a biblical creationist distinction1 — Preaching is not a difference in degree, but a difference in kind.”
Preaching is one of the species
belonging to the same rhetorical family called public address.
Preachers are not just engaged in a form of public address which is only greater in importance, confidence, concern, or value than that of other speakers, but are involved in a task which is different from “law, politics, or religion” (see previous articles).
While the task is different than and more than that of the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, John the Revelator, or even the authors of the 66 books of the Bible (who were not preaching the Scriptures, but were the Scriptures), preaching is still similar, still connected, and still involves the communication of truth.
Note: I should point out that there are very few examples of doing what preachers and teachers have been called to do, few homiletical examples because most biblical speakers are examples of revelatory speaking, not preaching, “thus saith the Lord” and not “let me unwrap what the Lord was saying when He said that.” 2
Even though the preacher has been given another writer’s finished “public address” / content, that does not mean that we are not involved in communicating their words, that content in a way that effectively impacts the listener. That is why some are more and less effective as preachers and teachers!
We do not merely read the Scriptures, make a few clarifying or amplifying comments, and close in prayer.
As stated, our task or activity is comparable to those who share the works of others, to those who did not create the content, but so love the content that they use all the communication skill they can to bring others into the place where they appreciate what was composed or painted.
It would be as if one were handed a copy of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, or a copy of the United States Constitution and its twenty-seven amendments. The preeminent focal content is not your words. What is the rhetorical role or task of that person? The given task is to present it — not just read it — yes read it, but do more than read it back to the audience. “Speak to it’s content” as a preacher is asked to preach a message on the Sermon on the Mount, the 10 Commandments, or the fruit of the Spirit.
There is a different paradigm operating when it comes to biblical homiletics.
That difference is often not seen, properly realized or explained.
Because of that, the rhetorical task is often blurred, misconstrued, or warped — badly warped into what some think is “expository” preaching.3 The task is not to merely present a running commentary on the obvious — verse by verse (Amendment by Amendment4). The communication task is different, but it is also much the same.
There is a difference between the secular public address and biblical preaching, but the difference is not found in the nature of the tools which can be used to communicate, but in “the materials” we have been handed.
Because the preacher has been handed the “preeminent lumber” which is to be used in the work does not mean that tools of communication, which are based on the very creation of mankind, are not to be used.
Communication is communication, and error is halfway around the world before truth has its boots on!
We have been given the “theological-biblical lumber” and we are now to use the tools of communication to make clear and drive home the truths of Scripture.
There is a “meaningful difference” between Spurgeon and Tony Robbins, or Zig Ziglar,5 but the difference is not a game changer. It does not change the game or how it is played, but the difference does have implications. The “creative-paradigm-activity” has been altered because the . . . .
. . . . are not ours.
But it is ours to make clear, real, weighty, applicable, understandable, related and meaningful to the audience’s composition (age, sex, time of life), etc.
It is not for us to merely say — or think. . . .
“Thus saith the Lord.” (That is what the prophets were given to do!)
“These are His words — argue with Him”
“God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”
“I’m just telling you what the Bible says.”
“Our task is to merely lay out what the Bible teaches – verse by verse.”
If you want to see an example of someone who is engaged in the task of helping an audience better appreciate the music or the painting, listen to Charles Swindoll . . . .
Transcription — God of the Second Chances – Part 2 – May 10, 2019
“He will never blot you out of His family once you have entered His family through faith in Jesus
You are in and you are secure.
He has an infinite capacity to forgive us
an infinite number of times
For sin abounds, grace abounds all the more
He remembers — (Psalm 103:14) — that we are dust
Then after we have refused to trust Him
along He comes, graciously — offering another chance.
It all begins with His understanding of us.
God is never surprised that we fail Him
Though admitted it grieves Him when we do
Which brings up the subject of what it doesn’t mean.
To say that God is the God of the second chance doesn’t mean that He doesn’t care
Any more than a father doesn’t care that a son or daughter disobeys again and again
If doesn’t mean that resistance doesn’t matter
He always longs for us to obey Him . . . . . . . . . . .
And then I’ll name another that is a little less famous, but we’ve talked of him before — that would be John Marc
John travels with Paul and Barnanabs as they being their first journey
and when things get tough,
and the mosquitos bite,
and the diseases come,
and the mountains are high,
and the climb is arderous,
and the future is bleak,
and the enemy is real —
he gets scared and he deserts
he deserts the two
Swindoll is not only or merely relating the actual content, but he is helping the audience appreciate the picture which was painted in Acts 13 concerning John Marc’s decision.
The difference is between composing the music found in Acts 13, and Swindoll’s “communicative appreciating” of that music.
The difference is between the original painting located in Acts 13 and Swindoll’s “communicative explaining” of that painting.
Preachers are the music or art appreciation teachers, seeking to educate the audience about the depth of greatness and value in what they are “looking at” — reading with us at this moment time, about a time when . . . . .
With preaching, the preacher is not even painting by number — because he understands that he has not authored the original composition — though at times some preachers do get into that “paint by number” process which comes close to blurring the line between composition and proclamation — and which is dubious at times, by us and others.
Wherever that line is, “Bible Appreciation” does not mean that there are no rhetorical components used by the “speaker-preacher.” At times, it can be difficult to ascertain as to whether this-or-that communication tools is proper or improper — i.e. a spiritual imagination as argued by Warren Wiersbe. 6
Nevertheless, preachers are communicators who ought to WORK HARD at being effective communicators of the pictures and compositions God has given His people!
1. Men are not different in degree of mental or physical sophistication and ability than the animal world, but are completely different in kind.
2. Some homiletical examples include:
* Peter explaining the meaning of Joel’s words in Acts 2:16
* Stephen arguing that Israel and its leaders were always resisting – Acts 7 and the crux-point of his argument as seen in 7:51
* Paul “speaking” about his conversion at various times — creatively telling his story, but then “preaching” in Acts 13:16 which is aimed at the point of his argument as found in 13:40
3. If you read some of the earliest discussions and papers on “expository preaching” written in the early 1800s, you will notice that the discussion and emphasis about “expository preaching” revolved around two elements: #1) the use of passages of Scripture rather than a verse, and #2) preaching through a book consecutively. The emphasis on expository speaking was a response to “springboarding” and/or jumping around the Scriptures for the message, or for the weekly selection of a message.
“A much more elusive tern is ‘the expository sermon.’ In the broad sense, this sort of sermon is the unfolding of the truth contained in a passage longer than two or three consecutive verses. Often the unit is a single paragraph.” — Preaching From The Bible – Andrew Blackwood, professor of homiletics, Princeton Seminary, 1941, pg. 42
4. It is as if a person was given the Bill of Rights, and asked to share those socio-political truths with an audience — not create a speech which evaluates, critiques, compares, debates, or challenges the wisdom of such a document — what is the rhetorical role or task of that person?
If they are not engaged in the “creative activity” which typically marks public speaking choosing the topic, coming up with what they want to say, their arguments or opinions for this-or-that position, deciding on which arguments are strongest and weakest, what ought to be included or left out, etc.
5. Tony Robbins – Zig Ziglar and others — https://www.ranker.com/list/notable-public-speaker_s)/reference
6. Warren Wiersbe — “Preaching and Teaching With Imagination
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