Rhetoric & Homiletics: What Causes It Not To Ring True?


What the author and blogger said is true . . . .

“I was signing a copy of my book Blueprint . . . . The person I was signing the book for has been a window into a world I will never be able to fully comprehend. He is an African American, and I am a white Canadian. As hard as I try I will never be able to fully grasp what he and other people of visible minority groups, especially black American males, have gone through and continue to go through. At best I can be understanding while never, no matter how hard I might try, fully understanding.”

I felt sad as I read of that reality, and I also thought about how disconnected a speaker or preacher can be when it comes to his audience.  How little they really know about who they are or may be speaking to, and their life’s experiences.

What about those in the audience who have experienced . . . .

  • sexual abuse
  • loss of a child or family [1]
  • singleness
  • estrangement or alienation from a parent(s), sibling, or child(ren)
  • divorce
  • financial ruin due to no fault of your own (i.e. lawless rioters)
  • gross inequity by the legal and penal system
  • the inability to have a child [1]
  • a malicious church action or dismissal
  • raised fatherless / motherless
  • rape
  • out of wedlock pregnancy
  • a prodigal child
  • a fostered or adopted child
  • real religious persecution
  • homelessness
  • caring for a child(ren) parents with a disability (-ies)
  • dealing with a disability (-ies_)
  • guilt-ridden over a past terrible decision
  • drug-addicted or recovering — parent, spouse, child, grandchild
  • the murder of a sibling or child [2]

You never know who you are talking to when you speak or preach.

That is why it is so important to . . . .

√  “know your people” [3]
√  rethink your sermon with such potential people in mind
√  read about the lives of real people who can effectively communicate their experience [4]
√  get out of your church bubble and talk and eat with real people who work in the real world on “Monday” morning

Some messages lack the content, the application, the heart, and/or the empathy because the pastor is so aloof from his people and/or he is so self-absorbed with his own life. [5].   At times — maybe more than one believes to be true — the message just does not ring true with the listeners — “How does he not understand how hollow that sounds coming from his mouth.” / “What’s is he talking about?”

Speaking or preaching changes when you have experiences in life, or you genuinely get to know about life and living through the words and experiences of others you come to know.

Let me say that “as hard as I try I will never be able to fully grasp what people have gone through and continue to go through. At best I can be understanding while never, no matter how hard I might try, fully understanding.”  But I can and must try — as a pastor shepherd!

. . . . . . .

1. I have often tried to reference this early in the annual Mother’s Day Sunday service — “Happy Mother’s Day to all of our mom’s with us today. But we would be amiss to not understand that there are some for who “Mother’s Day” calls back the loss of a child or the inability to have children and we also want to help bear that burden with them as well by recognizing and praying with and for them this morning.”

2. In the first year of ministry, I came to know a senior saint who disliked, really dislike, my sermon from the book of Job. He let me know how upset he was after the message and said . . . .”It is easy to preach what you are preaching about — going through trials and loss — until you face it. One day you may face it and change your tune. Your message will change when you understand loss.”

I responded by saying (not sure it was even wise to respond as I look back today with more years and I hope greater pastoral wisdom) . . . . “If I fail to follow the words of Job, then I have failed as well.”

His adult daughter had been brutally murdered in New York City!

3. How sad shameful it is when pastors . . . .

  • fumble with the names of their “sheep,” Yes we all have lapses of memory. I am not referencing finiteness, but indifference.
  • reference the needs of individuals and families with uncertainty — “I’m not sure, but I was told that Noel was in a car accident earlier this week.”
  •  imply by indefinite comments or oblivious omission that they know little as to the condition of a member of the church — “Does anyone know how that surgery went?”
  • fail to even find out ahead of time if one of their members is in the service before they mention them — “Are they in the service today?” Again, I understand that people come in after I have tried to make the rounds before the service. I am referencing aloofness, not incapability. Nevertheless, I would not even make the statement, “Are they in the service,” and reference only their need, so as not to embarrass them for not being present — for whatever reasons.

4. “Same Kind Of Different As Me,” by Ron Hall (International Art Dealer) & homeless man — Denver Moore

Screen Shot 2021-01-21 at 8.28.55 AM

5. It is “major” when it involves or affects them.  With others — not so much!

2 thoughts on “Rhetoric & Homiletics: What Causes It Not To Ring True?

  1. This explains a lot as a listener.
    Working with “at risk” kids and their family systems for 10 years, having limited feeling in limbs from a bad accident very young and having a daughter who seems to barely live through numerous incidents from birth defects probably explains my lifelong struggle with “shallow communicators”. Praying for a good parking spot at the mall tomorrow and peoples feeling under the weather sends me over the edge.


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