How Do Ideas Develop?

If communication is all about ideas, which it is, then what happens to those ideas? Haddon Robinson regularly states that there are only three things that you can do to develop an idea. You can explain it. You can prove it. Or you can apply it. There is nothing else that can be done to develop an idea.

* In a biblical passage, what is the author doing? Is he explaining/clarifying, is he proving/convincing, or is he applying/exhorting? It is helpful in Bible study to discern what the author is actually doing as his thought develops.

* As you preach the passage, what does your audience need? Do they need explanation? Do they need to be convinced? Do they need to consider application?

* You do not have to do just what the passage does. It could be that a passage spends no time explaining a concept, but your listeners need that extra explanation. We must know our listeners and their needs as well as possible in order to communicate effectively.

* There is a logical progression to the three developmental options. Generally explanation precedes proof/convincing, and both proceed application. The progression is important to note, even though this does not require us to therefore be rigid in our preaching. We do not need to always follow a formula of stating, explaining, proving, applying, etc. This can be both tedious and unnecessary. But it is important to understand the three options, and to think through what is necessary at each stage of each sermon.

2 thoughts on “How Do Ideas Develop?

  1. I find it helpful to take these three ways of developing an idea and re-phrase them as questions. I have made the following three questions part of the template I use in preparation for preaching each week.

    1) What does it mean? (explanation)

    2) Is it true? (proof)

    3) What does it matter? (application)

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