If you speak from a pulpit, classroom, blog, podcast, or small group you have a great opportunity to bless people.
In my early 30’s I spoke to two thousand people in a church meeting and I was so panicky that I was sweating and tongue-tied. I vowed to never do that again!
Like 75% of people, I had a fear of public speaking. But the Lord’s call on me prevailed and since then I’ve written or spoken to millions of people. I’ve enjoyed serving Christ this way and been honored to see God use me to foster intimacy with Jesus and life change for people I minister to.
12 Guidelines for Speaking & Writing
1. Focus on the Way
One time I sensed God speak to my heart, “The most important words you write or speak come between the lines.” Most people forget what you say, but remember how they experience you—especially if you help them to feel and hear the Spirit of Jesus. Research has shown that the impact of a speaker is 7% content and 93% tone of voice and body language (which can convey attributes like joy, compassion, and enthrallment with Christ). (1)
2. Serve What You’re Cooking
In your message invite people to eat from the “meal” of how God has been blessing you in Scripture and life. Find a match between what you’ve been learning and what your audience needs from God (but not necessarily what they want).
3. Meditate on Scripture
Before giving your message meditate on your Bible text for your own soul (1 Timothy 4:16). Learn to receive from God’s word—even while you minister it to others.
4. Be Authentic
Craft your own message from God’s word, your life, and examples. (It’s fine to gather ideas from other preachers and teachers, but don’t plagiarize.)
5. Identify Assumptions
Identify the assumptions of your listeners and use God’s word to wash their minds (Ephesians 5:26).
6. Ask Jesus to be the Preacher
Look to Jesus as the Preacher and yourself as his assistant. Before you speak imagine the Son of God radiating in your pulpit (Hebrews 1:3). Rely on his Spirit in the room, in you, and in your listeners.
7. Be Vulnerable and Encourage
Share your experience, strength, and hope (as in 12 Step groups). Avoid issues that trigger fear and shame or that you haven’t made progress with. Share personal struggles with a friend or mentor before disclosing them from the pulpit. (Don’t use your audience as a therapist!)
8. Focus on Who Comes
Ray Ortlund, Sr., the pastor to pastors who inspired my spiritual renewal and the birth our Soul Shepherding ministry, taught me not to worry about the size of my audience and just bless those who are come. He quipped, “If God is not there (manifest) then it’s not big, but if God is there it’s HUGE!”
For years I was an overly earnest teacher. I learned to smile and lighten up when a friend stood in the back of the room and held up a sign with a huge smiley face! This made it easier for people to learn from me. It’s said that four to six-year-old children smile 300 times per day but adults only smile 15 times a day. Surely that’s one reason Jesus urged us to become like little children (Matthew 18:3).
10. Be Enthralled with Jesus
Ravish your listeners for more of Jesus! Plant inside their hearts a fervent desire to live as the disciple Jesus loves! (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20).
11. Let it Go
After you speak turn your message loose to the Lord like you’re releasing a helium balloon into the sky. Don’t worry about your performance, trust God to care for the people and you.
12. Develop Good Habits
Train yourself to habitually do these things so that in the moment of speaking you easily and routinely minister God’s loving presence and power.
1 Professor Albert Mehrabian at UCLA in the 1970’s studied personal communication and developed the 7% rule. Especially, he found that 7% of a communicator’s effect was their spoken word, 38% was their tone of voice, and 55% was their body language.