Rhetoric & Homiletics: Do You See What You Are Doing?

do you know

Knowing What You Are Doing . . . . .  Gives Focus!

As you work on a speech or a sermon, there is value in grasping what you are attempting to accomplish in this-or-that portion of the discourse.  You may find it profitable to handwrite one of these words next to a portion of the notes you are working off of — off of which you are working.*

This practice has several advantages . . . .

√  promotes mental focus to a section during preparation
√  provides mnemonic help to me while preaching (“OK — I am contrasting it now.”)
√  helps me provide a transition for my thinking and the audience
√  promotes clarity in my thinking when actually preaching it
√  pushes me to cut out this-or-that because it fails to accomplish that end
√  helps me to ask, “Does the audience need me to . . .  explain, illustrate, prove”
√  reminds me that I need to understand what I am trying to do at this-or-that point


In this section, I am attempting to . . . . 

Frame: You are providing the contextual elements NEEDED to understand the passage aright.  You are “framing” the passage in light of what is happening or where we are in the book, chapter, or passage.

Reinforce: There are times when you want to and/or need to strengthen or intensify what is being said.  Sometimes this is done by repeating or restating.  At other times is by giving citing additional passages that teach that truth or principle.  Whatever the method, you are seeking to buttress what is being stated or argued..

Explain: The aim is simply to make something more understandable to all or some who may not be familiar with the concept or practice.  You are seeking to elucidate or describe what is being said, happening, or it means.

Contrast: Instrumental Templates:

•  This would be like Samson being in the place of Joseph  . . . . .
•  We would never do this today — in our culture . . . .
•  This is so unlike what the world tells us to do. . . .
•  Imagine doing the opposite.  It would look like this . . . .

Compare: Instrumental Templates:

•  This would be like Samson being in the place of Joseph  . . . . .
•  Compare this to another N.T. Gospel situation when / where . . . . .
•  You see this when Abraham does / says / responds / finds himself . . . .
•  This is like when a person, in our world today, does, says  . . . .

Illustrate: Illustrating is just that.  You are providing a way of better seeing and thinking about what you are saying. While an “illustration” can be used to introduce the general topic of a message in the introduction, we are speaking of giving clarity to a truth that is abstract.  You can also use an illustration to “emphasize” a truth, a point, a principle, an argument.

Argue: When you “argue” a point in a message, you are seeking to persuade the listeners that it is true, right, good, proper, or necessary.  In your mind, you know that you are attempting to persuade the audience, at this point in the message.  That may take the form of an illustration,

Emphasize: You are giving that truth, the point, or a stated principle “verbal and rhetorical bold print.”

Prove: What I am saying is supported by Scripture, logic, experience.  “You know what I am saying is true because you yourself have entertained the same questions that Paul is asking.

Exemplify: To call up a clear, known, understood present example of it — “You see this when you walk into most any Bible-believing church across America  . . . . “

Affixing-Re-affixing:  You are affixing and/or re-affixing the BigIdea of the message. You are establishing and/or re-establishing the driving idea of the message.

Apply: Sometimes, application takes place as one moves through a message, and/or at the end of the sermon.  A preacher/teacher does not need to say, “Now let me apply this.”  In fact, it may be best to stay away from that well-worn phraseology!  Nevertheless, it is valuable for you to see and know that you are doing that at that point in the message.


NOTE: This practice also has application to the reading of a passage or chapter of Scripture during sermon preparation . . . .

“What is the writer seeking to accomplish in this “chunk?”


James 2:1 — James is going to begin with a statement of his argument.  He is not going to lead to the point.  He is going to being with the point and then argue it.

James 2:2-3 — He then provides a clear example of a potential and probably very typical situation.

Illustrate / Prove:
James 2:4 — Is that not partiality?

#1) God chose the poor to be rich in faith — 2:5
#2) Rich men oppress you — 2:6-7
#3) The Royal Law is about selflessness — 2:8
#4) It is sinful — 2:9
#5) It is a transgression of “The Law” — 2:10-11
#6) Act like one who will be judged and needs mercy — 2:12-13




* Just a note to highlight the fact that I am a grammatical rebel.  Public speaking does that to you because writing and speaking are two different art forms.  You can do things vocally and visually — and even grammatically — in public speaking that may not work at all in writing a book.

I just refuse to abide by the grammatical law of not ending with a preposition.

Likewise, my writing attempts to include a visual representation — see the books of Jeffrey Gitomer . . . .

Screen Shot 2020-03-02 at 9.19.23 AM Screen Shot 2020-03-02 at 9.19.56 AM



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