Homiletical Tips: #4 – If You Think That . . . . You Are Wrong!

There are many simple ways a speaker can clarify, capture a thought, assist recall, and/or drive a point.  This example is one of many possible  “Homiletical Tips” that can help make your points stickier.

Here is another example to add to that list. . . . .

Sermonic List

Tip #1 – Changing A Day To A Experience:
Tip #2 – Say It In A Way That Highlights An Event:
Tip #3 – Include / Connect The Outcome:

Tip #4 – If you think that words and phrases don’t matter, you are wrong!:  

Every day, twice a day, I watch three small school buses travel from the local childcare center to the public school.  I assume that they are transporting elementary pre/aftercare students from their childcare facility to the elementary school about two miles away — which begins at 9:40 am.

On one side of their buses is this statement . . . .“Empowering Children For The Future”
On the other side is this statement . . . . “Building Foundations In Their Lives.”

Note: What a great idea to put two different “phrases” on a school bus rather than the same phrase on both sides!  A great way to say more and say it differently!


I was again reminded of how important well-thought-out words and phrases are to effective and memorable communication!  But such words and wording take work, using a good thesaurus, along with an idiom and rhyming dictionary.

If you think that wordsmithing isn’t that important, you are wrong. 

It is those words and phrases that the audience leaves with and still remembers years later. You probably have a good number that someone put in your sermonic memory account.  In fact, there are some that are so well known that pastors across the spectrum use and repeat them — because the words and phrases say it all so well in a few words.

We even share many of those phrases with others — and with no idea who first coined them.

  • “Sin will bind you, blind you and grind you.” (i.e. Samson)
  • “God isn’t as interested in making you happy as He is in making you holy.”
  • “We don’t fight for victory; we fight from victory.
  • “Salvation is the difference between “DO” and “DONE.”
  • “Sin will keep you from this book, or this book will keep you from sin.”
  • “The four laws of sowing and reaping.  What you sow, you will reap. You will . . . . . “
  • et al.


Here are some examples of words and phrases that make ideas stickier . . .^

√ Words/Phrase:  “Presence Outshines Promises”


Have you had someone tell you that they are or will be praying for you?  I have no doubt that they are or will, but can I tell you what outclasses that promise — “Presence” — being there, showing up in that hospital room, visiting that home, being at that funeral, making the effort to attend in person . . . . . Presence Outshine Promises, Presence Eclipses Our Promises To Pray. If you have any doubts, watch the expression of that person as you walk into the hospital room, show up at the funeral, or attend that event.

In fact, ask yourself how you feel when people say they will be praying versus showing up — for the shower, special event, celebration, church service or Bible study session!


√ Words/Phrase:  “Core Business”


“Bausch & Lomb . . .  eagerness to move beyond contact lenses took it into dental products, skin care, and even hearing aids in the 1990s. Today B&L has divested itself of all those businesses at a loss, and is scrambling in the category it once dominated (where Johnson & Johnson now leads).”

We have all witnessed businesses that so diversify what they now offer that they are no longer what they were or how they looked today!

Our core business as a church is not political commentary but the Gospel.  Bausch & Lomb is also involved in eye-care products and medicines for various eye diseases.  Those connect with its core, but its core business is contact lenses and eyeglasses.  They lost the core, and someone stepped into the void where they once dominated!

While the Gospel has implications in the political, social, and judicial world, those worlds are not the church’s core business.  The core business is the Gospel, going into all the world, evangel, and the activity found in the book of Acts. . . . .


√ Words/Phrase: “Navigate And Then Evaluate”:


“Navigate And Then Evaluate” . . . If you don’t evaluate and only navigate, you will not understand how you got to where you are and if there is a better route to your intended destination.  Some ministries don’t know why something went so well or bad because they fail to evaluate what worked or didn’t work.  They stay on the same route, time and time again, because it gets them to their destination, but they don’t know whether there is a better or more efficient way to reach that port.


√ Words/Phrase: “Policies Impede Personal Preference”:


“There is a reason that every effective organization has policies.  One of those reasons is the belief that it lessens decisions based on personal preference or partiality.  If you don’t have clear policies or don’t follow them, then what is making the decisions is one’s personal preference in this and then that situation.  Policies are designed to eliminate or at least impede personal preference, inequities, and/or partiality.


√ Words/Phrase: “You will invest your life in something, or you will throw it away on nothing.” — Haddon Robinson


√ And Many Others . . . . [2] [5]


The Danger! 

The danger is that some wording/phrases say too much, and stretch credibility or, worse yet, are biblically inaccurate.  Avoid using “never” or “always” types of words.

Ask yourself if it is actually true, typically the case, and/or contradicted by some pretty notable exceptions. [3] [4].


The Analytics:

When you hear such wording or phrases that catch your attention and stick, ask yourself . . . . Go analytical — “How does that phrase work?”  “What is making it memorable?

#1 – Word opposites are being used.  Such is the case with Haddon Robinson’s quote — “Something & Nothing”

#2 – Two Situations are pitted against each other — “Presence” vs. “Promises” [4]

#3 – Use Prepositions — “We don’t fight for victory; we fight from victory.”

#4 – Using verb tenses/forms — “It is “DO” or “DONE.”


  1. We can not only think; we can think about our thoughts! — See Generating Ideas
  2. √ Words/Phrase: “Ambiguity isn’t kindness, clarity is!”

    This one was just used by J. D. Greer in an article posted by the Gospel Coalition regarding the issue of homosexuality.

    “Homosexual sin isn’t the only sin Paul lists in that passage, but it’s one of them. This isn’t a “clobber passage.” It’s God’s gracious word of warning to a perishing world, and failing to make it clear would be the greatest unkindness we could inflict on our generation (Ezek. 33:8). — J. D. Greer

    OR Other Examples: —
    “It is not easy, but it is not complicated.”
    “You can choose to lose on purpose, with a purpose.”
    “People need to weigh in, if you are asking them to buy in.”
    “You didn’t say anything when it was going sideways, and now you want to weigh in when it fell apart.”
    “You didn’t speak up then, and now you say you saw it coming!”
    “If leaders don’t hold people accountable, their peers will not either.”

  3. You can’t water your statement down with all kinds of weasel words or disclaimers.  If you do, throw out the phrase.  Let some time pass and start over.
  4. Alternative: “Presence And Prayer Outshines Promises Of Prayer”
  5. Spend some serious time working on the communication side of preaching.  Most passages teach what everyone knows they teach, including you.  Let me suggest that your audience, even Generations X, Y, and Z, are not unresponsive because they live in a fast-moving visual and virtual age.They are known to “binge-watch” an entire Netflix series!It is about how to engage their minds through the art of communication!  What makes effective preachers/teachers so different is their ability to communicate, even when preaching the truths of the same passage!

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