THE word rhetoric is a noun meaning the art of using language effectively. Rhetoric was used in the ancient world to describe “persuasive discourse” whether written or spoken. Such noted philosophers as Plato, Aristotle and Cicero who gave much attention to those principles one should follow and who desired to move men to belief or action.
Paul appears to take note of those “sophists” who took these principles to the extreme when he separated himself from those who used “excellency of speech” 1 Corinthians 2:1 When l came to you, brothers, l did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as l proclaimed to you the testimony about God. Vs. 4- my message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words but with a demonstration of the spirit’s power…
Certainly no religious leader today should base their approach to their listeners on “flowery words” or “clever reasoning’
A sermon is defined as a talk given by a religious leader. It is called a talk reason being that the same tools for public speaking are used when delivering the sermon from man to men. A sermon is not a public speech and it is not a motivational talk. Today motivational talks are being spoken on the pulpit instead of sermons.
Religious leaders are teaching exciting sermons aimed at exciting the audience so that they come back for more exciting motivational talks. They believe when you give the people what they want they will come back for more, but it’s not beneficial to their spiritual growth.
A sermon is one of the most powerful means for bringing about the encounter between God and men, give them a sermon that will change their lives and they will come back for more. Purpose of a sermon is not to excite or motivate the congregants but to equip them with the word of God and make disciples not converts.
Matthew 5:1ff we learn about the Sermon on the Mount. It is called the Sermon on the Mount because Jesus gave it on a hillside near Capernaum. He spoke about the Beatitudes which are not multiple choice, pick what you like and leave the rest. They must be taken as a whole and they describe what we should be like as Christ followers.
We learn from Jesus preaching that he preached the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness among the people. He used parables to touch the hearts of people, the three fold purpose of the sermon was to make disciples, baptise them and teach or instruct. Inviting people to Christ is one thing, telling them how to live a Christian life is another thing. Large crowds followed him.
A religious leader should understand that delivering a sermon is different from motivational talks, a sermon should move from heart to heart. When they transmit the message obscurely without adequate preparation and without clarity in thought and expression those in darkness remain there.
No one should copy the style of another, for each must be his own man according to his personality and background. Yet each one can learn from both the strong and weak points of others, you don’t need to make your voice horsy to sound “holier than thou”, rather keep your talk to the point sweet and short to attract attention and long to cover all important points and not to send the congregation to sleep.
Do speak loud enough but don’t shout and don’t be distractive, l once listened to one religious leader who delivered a sermon with a 2.5 litres container filled with water put next to the Bible on the pulpit, drunk all of it during the sermon, its disturbing, people will miss the message thinking maybe he hasn’t eaten in ages.
Many religious leaders are giving motivational talks because they have become too familiar with the congregants, always trying to impress them. I watched a tele-evangelist who performed miracles, preached the word but whenever he did these things the women would run to the front and lifted him, ululating and singing songs of joy.
That should not be the relationship between a preacher and church members, too familiar with one another may cause a downfall. Less than a week, he was in the media involved in scandalous acts.
A good sermon whose material outlined effectively will hold the congregants attention, gives a meaningful relationship and many will be won to the Christian way of life. Be an equipper and not an entertainer or clown.
Paul employed many of the rhetoric techniques of the good speaker in his sermons, identification with his audience, careful use of evidence, effective organisation of ideas and urgency in delivering.
Rhetoricians divided effective speaking into five topics namely invention, disposition, style, memory and delivery. This is helpful to religious leaders even today when preparing a sermon.
As you listen and receive the word of God being preached be open-minded and search the scripture to see if what is being spoken is the truth and it is written in the Bible.
Romans 1:15-16 so lam eager to come to you in Rome, too, to preach the Good News. For lam not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes.