Rhetoric & Homiletics: How To A Prevent Losing The Audience

directions inlcuded  

“I’m Lost!” 

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Effective Preaching Requires Understanding This Concept
Part #2

Several factors are operating when it comes to “movement” and the use of “transitions.” [1]

#1 – The Audience: The nature of the audience determines the speed of movement. That becomes obvious when you consider the difference between a group of seminarians and the mixture and variety of people assembled on a Sunday morning. Transitions may be unstated when speaking to the “theological.” They follow the movement without all the transitional words and can move much more quickly.

#2 – The Interaction: The previous example of a family conversation highlights that such simple impromptu conversation is far different from public speaking. A public speaker/preacher cannot move and has not even intended for such a jumping of subject to subject. Assuming a conversational tone in speaking does not assume the same movement which marks causal conversations. A personal conversation and preaching (or public speaking) accomplish two distinct purposes, each marked by a different flow and movement. It seems improbable that a sermon would cover as many ideas as the illustration family conversation — (though some preachers have attempted it and still attempt such a self-inflicted defeat).

#3) – The Subject Matter: The more “complicated” the subject matter, the slower the movement and the greater need to bring an audience along by using transitions, conjunctions, and connectives. [1]

In fact, the more difficult the theological material of a biblical author, the slower one has to move through that book and the greater use of “transitions” [1] — i.e. Paul vs. John / The Book of Romans vs. I John.

#4) – The Audience Attitude:  If an audience is resistant to what is being said, the movement slows down, as well as the need for “transitions,” which help such an audience see the flow of argument – i.e. When Paul makes an argument before the religious and secular authorities.  The speaking experience is more complicated when speaking to a resistant audience, and the case needs to be built by connecting ideas, thoughts, statements, examples, truths, and principles.

Talking to an audience who is resistant to hearing – “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” changes up the flow and movement of a sermon.  With a Christian audience,” little to no time needs to be taken to develop, argue, or flow that biblical truth.

#5) – The Audience Background:  Not only is the attitude of the audience play into the flow and use of transitions, but the practical experiences of the audience also play into the movement and flow of argument.  Obviously, speaking to people who have not experienced any persecution is different from speaking to those who well know what persecution means on a daily and meaningful basis;  those shared or unshared experiences changes-up the flow.

In speaking to those who had not experienced what Paul had as a Pharisee, and as a minister to the Gentiles, Paul had to adjust his flow of argument.  The speaking experience is more complicated when speaking to an audience who has not experienced what is being addressed.  Speaking about “the loss of a child” to those who have never experienced such a loss changes up the flow and movement of a sermon/speech.

#6) – The Purpose: If the sermon-speech is informational, versus persuasive, the flow changes. The use of “transitions” is more pronounced when “persuasive” because an argument is being made, which is seeking to build and establish a case. To do that, connecting thoughts, ideas, statements, examples, etc. is more vital and necessary to being effective.

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instructions 2THEREFORE
Slow Down Just A Minute

You do not have to put everything you know into “Today’s Sermon.” 

As noted, there are at least six good reasons to slow down the flow and movement of the message.

The danger is that the preacher-teacher is brimming over with all the biblical truths, principles, Bible arguments, implications, applications, cross-references, illustrations, biblical examples, etc. which have accumulated in the “study,” and wants to download it all on “Sunday morning” — (Been there. Done it!)

“If they knew and understood what I now know and understand,
they will be as moved and excited about what God’s Word is teaching as I am!”

A preacher-teacher has spent 10 hours working on a sermon, and it is isn’t going to be amassed and dispensed in 30 minutes (or even in an hour).  Such an attempt to move through all that content will only confuse, frustrate, and overwhelm an audience.

A sermon is not a “family conversation!” 

The need for . . . .

  • slower movement,
  • the use of more connectives, conjunctions, and transitions
  • increased identification of the  connection between the ideas, words, and thoughts

. . . . is inherent in effective preaching.

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Nor is a sermon the same as a book!
But that is a different subject, but maybe not! 

1. At times, I am going to use the word “transitions” to include all three concepts – “transitions, conjunctions, and connectives.”

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