Let the pastor create aphorisms…briefly. Memorably.

“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”  –Anonymous

You may not be what you think you are.  But what you think, you are.”  –Someone very clever.

What is a weed?  A plant whose virtues are yet to be discovered.” –Emerson

“A weed is any plant that is out of place.” –Jerry Clower

An aphorism is a short pithy and memorable statement of some truth or lesson.  It may or may not be funny, clever, witty, or cute.  But it encapsulates a truth and someone thought it worth remembering.

Adrian Rogers loved a great aphorism and used many.  This legendary pastor of Memphis’ Bellevue Baptist Church received as much acclaim for his preaching ability as it’s possible for this denomination to bestow.  If you were in his audience, you felt the need to grab a pen and jot down some of his great lines.  To my knowledge, he never claimed credit for creating them but rarely did he give credit.  I’ve heard him say many times, “I got this from someone who got it from someone who got it from God!”

A believer lapses into sin and loathes it;  an unbeliever leaps into sin and loves it.  –Adrian Rogers

I love aphorisms.  As a college student, I found Eric Hoffer’s book of wonderful lines and insights he’d come up with while working as a longshoreman on the West Coast.  Like almost all books, that one can be found online at amazon.com or alibris.com and is worth looking at.  Hoffer’s life story is likewise worth a look.  His The True Believer was almost a classic by the time I came across it (again, while in college).  I also recommend The Ordeal of Change, which deals with a subject dear to the heart of any leader.

Here are a few of mine (but don’t miss the disclaimer at the end)….

–God does not send the pastor to make the church happy.  He sends the pastor to make Himself happy and the church holy and healthy.

–Anyone who cannot handle change is going to have a problem with Jesus.

–Every church needs a little conflict; and some need a whole lot!

–Whatever we do to the church, Jesus takes personally.

–Never ask God to humble you. Scripture says to humble yourself.  When God does it, the subject sometimes doesn’t survive.

–The blessings of God are promised to those who “do His Word”–and not so much to those who read it, memorize it, tell it, print it, distribute it, talk about it, defend it, or argue about it.

You’re a pastor and in your lesson you have some great points you want the people to remember. What to do….

–Refine it and make it as concise and memorable as you can.

–Preach it as the Lord leads.

–And then, print it out onto a few posters and place around the church.  If this is an eternal truth–and not just the theme of the next few messages or a cute saying you read somewhere–then, take down the posters after a couple of weeks and move them somewhere else in the church.  Then, store them away for three months, then display them again.

Some truths/principles bear constant repetition and you will wish to keep them before your people for the rest of the journey.  After all, you have been in this work long enough to know the typical church member learns almost nothing on the first hearing.  Spaced repetition is a teaching technique that we all respond to, and is illustrated all through the Lord’s ministry.

How to create aphorisms…

I suspect that not everyone appreciates these pithy sayings or has what it takes to create them. And that’s fine.  But for those who find this interesting, here are a few thoughts…

–One writer said those who would create aphorisms need considerable wisdom and a good sense of metaphors.  (I’ll take that! ha)

–Another writer said the best way to practice creating them is to re-write popular sayings, putting a new twist on them.  “A penny saved is a penny earned” might become “a penny saved goes in the piggy bank but not the offering plate, please!”

–My experience is that when you are deep into thinking about a problem or truth, Scripture or lesson, and trying to come up with principles that pertain, your mind will sometimes give you a great one-liner. And that’s your aphorism.

–Someone said, ‘An aphorism occupies that small space between poetry and prose.”

–In truth, few people will want to read an entire book of such lines, any more than they’d buy a collection of 1,000 great jokes.  A joke or aphorism needs context, which is what is missing in the collection of them.  In a sermon, a great line can shine like a diamond.  (And pastor, when you state it, do not destroy it by saying something like, “I’ve been trying to come up with a great way to put this lesson. So, try this….”  Or even, “Now, write this down.  You’re going to want to remember it!”  Just say it and move on.

My disclaimer:  Nothing is ever truly original, we’re told.  And who can deny it (or prove it!)?  Many an author will say in his/her foreword that “I think I’ve given credit where credit is due, but we all read so much it’s possible a point I thought to be original came from something I read.  If so, please let me know.”

Morality, like art, consists in drawing a line somewhere.  (I read that many years ago and have quoted it so often since, I noticed recently someone is attributing it to me!  It’s such a great line, I think I’ll act like it is mine!)







2 thoughts on “Let the pastor create aphorisms…briefly. Memorably.

  1. “The more we know who God is, the better we know who we are because of who He is.” I got this early in my present pastorate. I think it is either a quote or a rewrite of someone’s quote, but I can’t find it (I have Googled it multiple ways…). It has made its way into many sermons, and it encourages me to keep digging into the Word. Whoever it belongs to, I am glad it came my way.

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