Rhetoric & Homiletics: Just Asking! Maybe the #1 Help In Sermon Preparation??

Here was the question posed by the pastor . . . .

“We’re all waiting on something from God.  
What do we do while we wait?”

Screen Shot 2021-03-02 at 11.24.22 AMWhen I saw that, I sent it over to Bob Tiede because he is the master of asking questions!  If you are not familiar with his books, blog, or if you are “Linkedin” with him, you might find him helpful.  Much of sermon preparation involves asking good questions.   

The first one being, “How is this passage helpful for an audience of people who have just lived another week in the real world?” Sometimes that question is phrased, “So what?”  After all is said and done, and God’s people better understand the passage of Scripture — “So what?” 

Beyond that question, there are questions worth asking throughout the preparation of the sermon.  Rhetorically, “questions” are cousins to both the process of “inventio” (which has nothing to do with inventing ideas that are not in the passage) and the concept of “topoi.”  “Inventio” is a word that describes the creative process, and it is that creative process that makes different pastors different though preaching on the same passage.

What makes Tony Evans different from Andy Stanley, or Charles Stanley, or Warren Wiersbe, or Charles Swindoll?  It is the creative process that takes place in the study and in the thinking/mind of the speaker.  Part of that creativity comes from questions such as . . . . 

  • Where do you see that happen?
  • When is that most likely to occur?
  • When it NOT happen?  When it is most likely not to happen?
  • What does it look like in life and living?
  • How does it all begin?
  • What are some biblical examples where it is most pronounced?
  • Where did it all start?
  • Is there a process that defines it?
  • Who are the people most likely to be effective when it comes to . . . ?
  • If I wanted to get on that road, what would I have to do?
  • If I wanted to stay off that road, what would I have to do?
  • When did Jesus address that with His disciples?
  • What just happened (context)?
  • When is enough enough when it comes to . . . . ?
  • How can a person become better at this?
  • Who are those whose “role” it is to . . . . . ?
  • How does action match up to our words?
  • When does action finally match up to what we say?
  • Why isn’t it working?
  • Where does that show up in our culture?
  • What is a good analogy to that biblical concept.? [1]
  • When is it faith to do this, and not presumption?
  • What are two (three -or- four) steps that would make a meaningful difference?
  • What is reacting versus responding when this happens? (Reactive vs. Proactive)
  • OR – “What do we do while we wait?”

Having an actual list of these kinds of questions that you can pull out in the study when things have mentally stalled could prove to be valuable (or even invaluable on Saturday night!).

There are all kinds of questions that JOG the thinking process. 

  • Some are helpful.
  • Other are rabbit trails of thought.
  • Some kick-off another question.
  • Some help in the study and help understand the passage.
  • Others put the focus on application.
  • Some lead no where in relationship to the passage.
  • Others push one to think about another passage which helps.
  • Yes, some can lead to eisegesis and not exegesis.
  • Yet, other questions can give greater exegetical clarity.

Check out Bob Tiede’s books and blog for more help “in the pastoral study.”  Get in the habit of asking good questions!  Asking the right questions, having our minds run down some other avenues of thought because of those questions, is what makes preachers different — and is what makes some . . . .  more effective!

“What do we do while we wait?” — THAT IS A GOOD QUESTION which God’s people would be interested in hearing answered!  What question are you answering this week that God’s people need help in answering?  I’m just asking!

1. Tony Evans is a master at this.  His mind has been taught to think about this-or-that in light of Scriptural truths and principles!  That is one of the reasons he is so effective in preaching and teaching biblical truths to an audience.


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