Rhetoric And Homiletics: How To Add Actual Content To A Message!

Image result for let's go to the videotape warner wolf Let’s Go To The Video Tape!

I have spent and spend a good amount of time listening to other speakers and preachers for two overall reasons — personal and analytical.  Some are biblically encouraging, and others have homiletical benefit (and some have both!).

It is much like the benefit of reading Bible commentaries.  Some commentaries are more personally challenging, and others provide more homiletical help in sermonic preparation.

In fact, there are individual and complete series of “Homiletical Bible Commentaries,” which offer critical, doctrinal, interpretive, and homiletical help.  Some of the material is spiritually stimulating, and other material helps think through preparation and presentation. 1

Some preachers challenge me both spiritually and homiletically. As I listen and am personally moved, and I also say to myself — “They are good!”

I say that, to ask this question . . . .
As you listen to other speakers and preachers in the age of . . . .


. . . . and in the age of BOTH audio AND video options . . . .

“What happens when you only hear an unknown preacher,
when you watch an unknown preacher?”


“What happens when you hear a sermon from an unknown preacher,
and then you watch the same message by him?”


“What happens when you only hear a sermon,
but it is by someone who you have previously seen or watched?”


The answers to those questions are very telling!
Because your own experience can inform you!


Here are some of the possible scenarios:

√  Listening to only the audio of a sermon of an unknown preacher.

√  Listening to an audio sermon by an unknown speaker and then watching the video version of the same message.

√  Watching a video message by an unknown preacher for the first time.

√  Listening to an audio message by a well-known and/or previously seen preacher.


√    Have you listened to a previously unknown preacher whom you thought was rather “average” or “bland” and then watch him speak — and maybe even watch a video of the same message?

#1) Did your evaluation change?
#2) Did it change for the better or for the worse?

It can change either direction since some preachers are really good at reading.  Some are hurt because what sounded pretty natural is then seen as actually reading from a manuscript, with very little audience focus.


√  Have you listened to a previously seen or watched preacher, and as you listened you unconsciously or consciously visualized them speaking?

#1) Did previously seeing-watching them before make a difference?
#2) Can you listen to him without calling up the visual elements?


I would argue that when the visual is introduced,
the evaluation of the message and the speaker
changes radically,
for good or for bad.


If that is true, that has significant implications!


I am not merely saying . . . The visual is inherently superior to the verbal alone. 

That is not true!

I am not touting the superiority of the visual over the non-visual!  Those who are committed to and tout “Powerpoint Presentations” can argue that position — wrongly3

That position would suggest that books and/or writers are inferior to “movies” and/or cinema (CGI) artist.

Books can be far superior to a “movie.”

That is why some “movies” flop!
That is why critics will say, “Ruined the original storyline, but great visual effects.”
That is why critics also say, “The cinema was better than the book.”
That is why some argue that visual effects can never overcome a bad storyline.2


Rather, I am arguing that when you bring in the delivery side (the visual- the video of a message previously only heard as an audio message), that the evaluation changes because the sermonic content is changed by seeing it spoken.

I am not merely arguing that the visual is more engaging because that is what the visual does.  Rather, that the delivery side both CHANGES and ADDS content.

What one may have thought to be an “average message,” changes —  changes BECAUSE the content takes on even more content.  It takes on more . . . .


In the art of public speaking, delivery matters — for good and for bad — because it is content, and therefore it changes and adds to the content.  That is why watching a message significantly changes how one thinks about the message — for good and for bad!


What happens when you miss the significance of effective delivery in speaking or preaching?  You turn a unique art form into . . . .

Reading From A Manuscript: When you turn the art of public address into reading, you lose the vocal (enunciation, pronunciation, pause, emphasis, tone, etc.) and visual (body language, gestures, eye-contact, etc.)  which betrays authentic public speaking.   That is why you can hear a speech or message and typically guess that the speaker is reading from a manuscript.

Speaking Like It Is A Book:  When you turn the art of public address into a “book,” you lose the unusual and powerful strengths inherent in speaking.  The art of painting and photography are cousins, but they are not the same and operate by some very different principles.  That is why it is difficult to transpose a speech or message directly into a book, without any or many grammatical changes.

Merely Great Stage Presence: When you rely on a strong visual stage presence to replace a weak message, you will leave your audience with an unsubstantial spiritual meal.  You are covering up a bad meal with a great waiter.

If you have heard an mp3 and then went to the video of that message, and thereby changed your thinking about the message because of the video — what does that say to you about the place of delivery in preaching?


Identify the difference between listening to and watching a message
and you can gain significant insight
into the place that delivery plays in public address or preaching.


Effective delivery doesn’t just compliment the content,
it ADDS real and significant content to the message! 


1. An Aside: Is it me, or do you also see this trend?
Many “Bible Commentaries” are transpositions of a series of pulpit messages on this-or-that book or topic?  The classic “Whole Bible Commentators” continue to amaze me, and the more when I think about the non-technological times in which they lived.

2. Have you heard it said . . .

“I saw the movie;  I don’t need to read the book.”
“I’ve already read the book; I don’t need to see the movie.”

Books can be far superior to a “movie.”
“Movies” can far surpass a book.

3. “PowerPoint was rated (by online audiences) as no better than verbal presentations with no visual aids. Ouch.”

4. Let me add that relationship also matters.  A message is affected by “ethos” — the credibility and attitude towards the speaker.


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