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Rhetorical & Homiletical Concepts: It Sounds Simple. But It Isn’t.

See the source image But . . . Over Time The Mind Sees Differently!


Tony Evans: 

“I am regularly asked where I get my illustrations.  My answer is always the same: Everything for me is an illustration, because I have learned to think illustratively.  The wonders of God’s creation make everything that exists, as well as all the events that occur, possible illustrations.  The key is to learn to view everything through this lens.” — (from “Tony Evans Book of Illustrations”)

Tony Evans makes it look simple and as I lay out and deconstruct the process, it may sound simple.  But it is not!

If you want to develop the skill, there are processes you can take to improve your skill at construction — and end up doing it yourself.

√ Read as many examples / analogical illustrations as you can.
√ Take in the process — deconstruct it to see what makes it work.
√ Identify the keywords which are being built into the analogical illustration.
√ See how those keywords and concepts are being “pulled down” in the application.
√ Think about how to take one of Evan’s analogical illustrations and run with it — run it out even further with a little more knowledge about the analogy and/or in a different direction.

Evan’s book is replete with these kinds of illustrations — 100’s built on analogies.  That is because as he states he see God’s world and the events that occur in light of a possible way to make a truth or principle clear or more forceful.

Over the weeks ahead I am going to go through his book of illustrations and list out the areas of life which drive his various analogies.

The book is invaluable in its breadth of analogies.  It is worth your while to purchase a copy!

With this listing (a listing of only his analogies — which, by the way, is most of the book), you won’t see how he fully develops most of the analogies, but you will have enough to understand how analogical illustrations work and to build out these examples!

Without having to read every one of them, you can take the basic identified concept, the analogical kernel, and construct your own analogical illustrations.

The aim is not that you replicate the words and thinking of Evans’ analogies (which is another interesting discussion*), but that you see the pattern, effectiveness, and potential of the various analogical areas.

Your mind will begin thinking about the ways to use the analogical areas to make, clarify, explain, and/or illustrate a point in your message.  You can take the area, the kernel, and Run With It!


Sample Page:

Tony Evans page from book.jpg



Here are some of the areas, concepts, events, and ideas which Evans uses to construct “analogical illustrations.”

• Food hardens on the dinner dishes when left overnight.  It takes just soaking them a little while  — letting them abide in the water and the soap — to make it easy to clean.

• The planet Mercury versus the planet Pluto.  How close to the sun determines how hot that planet is.  The planet earth is just right — and therefore it has seasons.

• A phone beeping because it was out of power.  The battery was low and it finally shut down.  It had lost its power.  It needed to be put back on the charger.  The Christian can be caught short — on empty.

• It is hot in Texas.  Some people like air-conditioning, others like the hot weather.  Most people don’t like to hang out in the sun.  But if you hang out in the sun . . . .

• Flying on a Platinum card with American Airlines gives you some special benefits  You are a preferred customer because you fly with them so many miles.  Some people don’t care to fly first class with a Platinum card — they would rather fly second class most of their life.

• Sunflowers follow the sun.  Their yellow heads move from east to west throughout the day.  They are always looking for the sun.

• Ways to drink tea — letting the bag just sit in the hot water, or repeatedly dunking the bag in and out of the hot water.  One takes more human effort.

• Mc Donald’s value meal — the clerk may ask you if you want to super-size it.  Do I want the regular meal, or do I want a bigger box of fries and a larger drink?

• A POW — is a prisoner of war.  They are held hostage and cannot do what they want to do, but do what they are told to do.  Some Christians are POW’s of Satan.

• Bodybuilding — pumping iron, lifting weights, running on a treadmill, working out all require some discipline, sweat, hard work that a person must go through.

• Going to a gym — all dressed up for the occasion and with all the right gear — headbands, wrist bands, water bottle, gym bag, etc.  but don’t really take the time to work out — just dressed for it – on Sunday morning.

• A caterpillar — turns into a butterfly bu metamorphosis.  Something is happening in the inside of the cacoon and it finally comes out a butterfly.  It was the process of working its way out of the cocoon that gave it wings the needed strength to fly.

• Ambassadors — Ambassadors go to a foreign land and represent another.  They are not there to represent themselves, but the one who sent them to that country.

•  Hurricane (Katrina) — Many people were given food, shelter, clothes, schools to attend, money to buy goods —  but at the end not happy until they could get back to their home.

• Baptism and A Wedding Ring — The ring does not make you married, it is a symbol of the fact that you are married — It is a sign of a covenant.

• Queen of England — a figurehead.  She has a position but no real power.

• Reading the car manual — The manual is there but many do not take it out and read it.  I realized that there are a lot of features and lights which I didn’t understand until I read the manual.  Ignorant of the provisions that were part of owning the car.

• Putting a bike together for a child — I didn’t need the manual, I can figure this out myself.  Hours later I pulled out the manual.

• Duck hunting — don’t throw the dog into the air to catch the duck.  The dog is there to retrieve the duck which you shot.

• A Football — There is no game of football without a football.  Put on all the equipment, go out to a playing field, have two opposing teams ready to engage, have the refs ready to make the appropriate calls — but there is no game without the football.

• Getting Lost — Asking five other people for directions, relying on my sense of direction, the GPS said turn here but didn’t agree or didn’t hear it — “recalculating.”

• Driving — You are to be in one lane or the other, not straddling the middle.  There is a right way to change lanes.

• Prego Spaghetti Sauce — “It’s in there” — mushrooms, sausage, tomatoes, seasonings — it is all in there.  It is all in the Bible.

• Castor oil could fix anything — May not like the taste but it will solve your ailment.

• A Real Pizzeria — The dough is abused, beat up, slammed down on the counter, punched rolled, squeezed, pinched, twirled around, throw into the air — all to get the dough ready for the ingredients on top.  At times the dough is not ready yet to receive the ingredients.

• Blood Banks don’t hoard blood, but they store blood to be used in order to save lives.

• Buying a gift for the children when on various trips and times away — kids were excited about my return because I had a gift for them — excited about the blessing, not the blesser.

• Universal Studies tour — tour guide will tell you that this-or-that house on the movie set that is a facade.  It looks like an old western town of stores, but they are only storefronts, there is no real structure behind it — just facades — just the external.

• Grocery stores only sell vegetables.  They don’t plant them, grow them, water them, fertilize them, pick them, transport them — they just sell them.  Don’t get enamored with the grocery store — it is all that takes place before the fruits and vegetables arrive that make a grocery store possible.

• Symbiotic versus Parasitic Growth — With symbiotic growth both benefit together. With parasitic growth only one benefits.

• The Systems Of The Human Body — They all depend on each other.  If one goes down the others are affected.

• Power Steering — There was a time when there was no power steering.  To help turn the tires-wheels you have a large steering wheel because it gave you the ability to leverage a lot of pressure to turn the car.  Then there was power steering and you could turn the car with a finger or two — because something was assisting you.

• Breaking a stallion — It wants its independence and freedom.  It doesn’t want to be told what direction to go or when to move.  It doesn’t want anyone on its back.  But a cowboy will break a stallion and it will try to throw the rider, but the cowboy rides it out and the horse finally gives up and accepts the direction of the cowboy.

• Perfume — you must break the seal — open it — to enjoy the fragrance.  You must break the shell of the peanut to enjoy the smell.

• Refinishing furniture — You use strong chemicals to break down the old finish, and them sandpaper to get down to the wood grain — to see if repairs are needed.  Then it is ready to be refinished with a never cover of varnish.

• Remodeling a kitchen — Colors, cabinets, flooring, sample wallpaper, counters — great to see it all on paper what it was going to look like when it was finished  But before the new kitchen could be put into place, the old one had to be torn out.  A new life requires taking out the old life.

• Piggy bank — Slot in the top, plug in the bottom to get it out.  To get the money out you had to shake and shake it until it found its way out.  God has to shake us up to get all that is in there out.



That is just the “A’s” and “B’s” — “Abiding to Brokenness”

If you want to see some of the pages from his book, here is the link to Amazon

You can . . . .

• do a little research on any of the above areas
• call up your own experience
• tease out an area of the analogy
• add your own knowledge of the analogical subject

. . . . and make it your own effective means of clarifying, explaining, illustrating, and/or driving home a sermonic idea or concept.

After doing just the first 20 pages of his book, I was reminded again of how effective and commonplace Tony Evan’s use of illustrations is.




* What is the purpose of a book of illustrations?  A speaker-preacher buys a book like this to help in sermon preparation and preaching.  But the illustrations are not his!

Are the speakers-preachers to say, when they use the illustrations . . . .

“Tony Evans says in his ‘Book of Illustrations — “I was talking on my phone one day, and it began going  ‘beep-beep-beep.’  The beeping noise indicated that the battery was low.  After a couple of minutes, I heard a clicking noise.  The battery had died . . . . . . . . . . . . .”

Obviously, some of the stories in the book at his own personal stories and not “ours.” It happened to him, not us.  But what about the overwhelming majority of the illustrations which are “analogical?”

I think that is what makes Evan’s book of illustrations unique, in that you most of the illustrations are analogies, and therefore a speaker-preacher can grab a particular idea, the kernel of analogical illustration, tease it out and/or run with it using his own words, research (i.e. Sunflowers), and/or experience.




2 thoughts on “Rhetorical & Homiletical Concepts: It Sounds Simple. But It Isn’t.

  1. […] poems effective commentators-communicators lists — transitional phrases, related words, possible analogies real-life, present-day stories of life and living “Word of the day” / This Day In […]

  2. […] Illustrations are powerful?  That their construction can be learned.  That Tony Evans’ book of illustrations is replete with […]

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