324 – How to Be a Spirit-Led Speaker

This Week on Soul Talks

When we are leading conversations, preaching, or speaking to others, it can be tempting to rely solely on our own strength — on our own preparation, experiences, and knowledge. But the Lord has given us his Spirit that dwells in us and intercedes on our behalf in the Kingdom of the Heavens! As such, the greatest blessings and biggest impacts of our words come when we are guided by the Holy Spirit.

Join us for this episode of Soul Talks, where Bill and Kristi share their speaking experiences and continue teaching about how you can live a Spirit-led life. You’ll be equipped with practices and habits that engage your heart and turn your focus to Jesus, allowing your speaking to be reliant on the Spirit, and abounding in God’s will. 

Resources for this episode: 

How to Be a Spirit-Led Speaker Transcript

Bill & Kristi Gaultiere

Kristi 

Thanks for joining us on Soul Talk. We’re gonna continue our conversation on what life in the Spirit and “Spirit-led Ministry” really looks like. 

We talked about that last time on Soul Talks, but we really didn’t get into sharing anything personally about that. 

So Bill, will you share with our listeners what Spirit-led ministry looks like in your life today?

Bill 

Well, I think one example of it is we’ve been doing a lot of speaking, obviously in our Soul Shepherding Institute. 

But then also when we’re visiting churches and different groups, mission organizations and others where we’re doing training, retreats, and conferences. 

I remember well when I hated public speaking. I felt anxious about it. 

I had a panic attack. I just didn’t feel like I was a good speaker, because I’m not a natural speaker. 

I was self-critical. 

I didn’t feel like I was effective. 

I compared myself to other speakers and felt inadequate, felt jealous, and it was just a labyrinth of distress and frustration for me. 

At the time I was talking with a Christian therapist and I remember saying, 

“I don’t wanna speak anymore. Why should I? It’s not worth it. Life’s too short to have all this anxiety and all this stress and I’m not even good at it anyway!” 

So that was the focus of some of my work in therapy.

Kristi 

You wanted to quit.

Give It up to Jesus

Bill 

I wanted to quit, but as I prayed about it, I didn’t feel a peace about that. 

I felt like because I’m a teacher, the Lord wanted to help me with it. 

So I stayed with it. 

And as I prayed through that, as I practiced and learned different ways of speaking, it became a very different experience for me. 

One way of understanding that change is the shift from “the R stage” to “the S stage,” through “the Wall” and into “the Inner Journey,” in the middle of that. 

But I learned a way of speaking and teaching that’s in “the S stage” of spirituality, because I learned a way of living that’s in “the S stage” spirituality. 

That has been a game changer for me.

Kristi 

So now when you go to speak, it’s not something that you anticipate or feel anxious about or feel anxiety in. 

It’s something that actually you find great joy in. 

It’s an “easy yolk” now.

Bill 

It’s like my favorite thing, especially because I get to do it with you, Kristi!

Kristi 

Thanks for that. [Laughter]

Bill 

I mean, it’s so fun that we get to visit with people.

And many of you who are listening, we would love to come to your church or your organization.

Or have someone on our staff come to you and be with you in community. 

And bring some teaching. Yeah, we just love that. 

I find that God is present in a special way in these settings and I’ve learned how to do it where it’s not about me. 

It’s not about my words, my knowledge, my teaching, my speaking abilities — those things on the human level. 

They contribute, but that’s not what it’s about. 

It’s about the Lord Jesus. He’s the speaker, he’s the teacher. 

I just orient myself around the fact that the risen Lord is in the room or here, right now, on this podcast.

Kristi 

So, why couldn’t you do that 30 years ago when you had your panic attack on the stage? 

Why couldn’t you do that then?

Bill 

Well, I tried to but I didn’t have the character to do it, and I didn’t have the full understanding. 

I think part of it has been that I just needed to learn some things, conceptually. 

There were some theological, spiritual, and psychological understandings that I needed to gain. 

I hadn’t read a book like Journey of the Soul that explained these kinds of things to me. 

So that was part of it. 

But that’s just the beginning. 

Dallas Willard says in his book, Hearing God, “We live at the mercy of our ideas.” 

So in my idea about public speaking, what was off was that I didn’t really understand how to speak in that Spirit-led ministry. 

But beyond that, we need more than good and true ideas. 

We also need a relational disposition and the characterological ability. 

We need habits that engage our heart.

Some years ago, I had habits of ambition, habits of ego, habits of worrying about what people thought about me…

Habits of putting pressure on myself, of being self-critical, of judging myself, of going into shame…

Habits of trying to please people and spiraling down into discouragement. 

So all those things were affecting my experience with public speaking. 

But when I learned habits of rejoicing in the Lord in my midst of submission to God, of not trying to push and hurry and get it all out, but paying attention in the moment to the Holy Spirit.

When I learned the habits of having a conversation with people… 

When I speak, when I preach, when I teach — I’m doing that. 

I’m practicing those habits just like what I’ve been doing as a therapist, as a spiritual director, as a coach, where I listen to people and I have conversations.

I figured out the best speakers are actually good at listening to people, even though the people aren’t talking. 

Of course, we do what we call “squeeze the sponge” in our Institute. 

Where we have people share comments and questions, and that’s the best form of teaching. 

But in a larger group setting like preaching a sermon or giving a sermon, you’re bringing the content. 

And even while you’re talking, you can be looking at people and their faces, and listening to what their bodies are telling you. 

You can imagine the questions they might be asking and you can be listening to what you sensed the Holy Spirit might be saying. 

I’ve practiced those things and it takes a load off of me and because the load is not on my shoulders, it’s on Jesus’ shoulders. 

He’s the Lord. 

He’s the master. 

He’s the teacher and speaker.

The Most Important Preparation Is Prayer

Kristi 

Years ago, when you were speaking, you were working and striving very hard.

And you were dependent upon making sure that your content was really good — your methods, your style, and the nonverbal communications. 

There was so much to be attending to, focusing on, and depending on.

And so much tied to your performance and your success and the outcomes. 

You’ve learned to abandon that to Jesus. 

You’ve learned to attend to him as the most precious one present there in the room.

And you’ve learned to depend upon his Spirit in you. 

Even when you were talking about “listening to people in the room,” or “reading the room,” you’re listening to the Holy Spirit.

Your most important preparation when we speak is prayer. 

Asking and listening to the Lord first, before we even go, as to what his heart for the people that we’re going to be with is. 

And then while we’re with them, continuing to listen to his heart, his desire, asking him for his vision.

Bill

Part of that prayer process is, frankly, getting my body, my heart, and my soul in the right disposition.

A disposition of worship for God and trust in Jesus the speaker. 

A disposition of passion for the people. 

And so to have that centered in my focus and in my bodily orientation, that part of prayer is really important.

So that when I show up to speak, I’m rested. 

And my relational centers of my brain are on and I’m smiling. 

Not like I am trying to smile, but because I’m happy in Jesus and I’m happy to be assisting Jesus. 

When I speak and before I speak, I imagine myself speaking. 

I’ve done this many times, I see Jesus there at the podium. 

I see him there as the speaker.

He’s the Lord. He’s the radiance of God’s glory.

He’s towering over me and all of us in the room. 

I see myself as I watch and pray to anticipate the time of speaking and teaching. 

Whether it’s a big group or a smaller group, I see myself there, or you and I as we are speaking together.

We’re assisting Jesus.

We’re beside him, but our attention, our affection is on Jesus and the people’s attention and affection is on Jesus. 

And that relaxes me because it’s not all up to me.

Kristi 

And you’re able to enjoy it.

Bill 

I love it. 

It’s my favorite thing I do. 

I never would’ve imagined when I was 30 years old and I was all stressed and anxious about it, and feeling horrible. 

I would never imagine that it’d be my favorite form of work .

I would’ve said “Oh, I’m a writer. Let somebody else speak it.” 

No, I like speaking it even better than writing it in one sense.

Learn to Follow the Spirit in Real Time

Kristi 

Well, I think that my story parallels you some, not exactly the same. 

I didn’t struggle with the same anxiety.

But one of the things that’s been so freeing for me personally in Spirit-Lled ministry is to be able to see how the Lord uses my weaknesses, my vulnerabilities, and my struggles.

All the parts of me that I normally would want to hide.

And which I did used to hide, try to manage, repress, and protect behind my defense mechanisms. 

I’ve learned that I can drop all of that in the presence of God. 

And that surprisingly, as I’m honest about those things, the Spirit uses it.

Bill 

You’ve become a wounded healer and I’m so proud of you for your courage to be vulnerable in that way. 

And to get off of the sidelines, where you can be a great cheerleader, which is a wonderful gift. 

But to realize the Lord wants you in the game. 

And I need you in the game. 

To have you speak and lead with me is very powerful because you’re a different personality. 

You’re a different voice. 

You have a different story. 

And a lot of people relate to you. 

You’re more feeling oriented, I’m more thinking oriented. 

You’re more “type B,” I’m “type A,” and we have different personalities. 

Your courage to be that as a teacher, as a leader, is a blessing to so many people.

Kristi 

It’s true that in Spirit-led ministry, the gift of being able to listen to the Lord beforehand and praying, that’s the real work before we speak. 

During the moment, and as we speak together, that gives me space to be praying and listening when you’re talking and I’m not. 

Oftentimes the Lord will give me a fresh idea, a new word, a sensitivity to what he wants to say to somebody in the room that I hadn’t been conscious of or thought of until that moment.

Bill 

If somebody listening might ask, “What do you mean by praying while you’re talking?” 

That might seem like, “Well, how would you do that?”

Kristi 

Yeah, well, I actually meant while you’re talking, Bill, because we speak together. 

Oftentimes when you’re teaching or speaking, I’m praying. I’m seeking the Lord.

“What are you saying?”

“Where would you have us go next?” 

“Should we share this story or this verse?” 

“Or do this exercise or something else?”

I’m offering these things to the Lord, I’m submitting our outline to the Lord. 

If people saw our outlines when we speak, or our materials that we bring in preparation and they tried to see how we covered that in our talk, oftentimes they’d be surprised how much we go off script. 

Because we’re not tied to that outline. 

Because we are trusting the Holy Spirit to know better than. 

This is what we’re offering him. 

We’re saying, “Okay, this is the best of our discernment to date.” 

Then usually during the break, you and I kind of talk:

“What are you sensing from the Spirit? What do you think? 

Should we stick with this plan? Or is there something else?”

And oftentimes one of us is to discern something else and we’ll just abandon that.

Multiple Methods Give Flexibility to Follow the Spirit’s Leading

Bill 

Yeah. And we’re not saying that’s like the only way to do it. 

Sometimes you give a talk and it needs to be close to the vest. 

You stick to pretty much a script, that’s another way to do it. 

And you can still do a lot of prayer and discernment into hearing a talk that way. 

I’ve done talks that way as well. 

Sometimes when the sermon needs to be 22 minutes, it needs to be more like that. 

But we’ve learned a way that, for us, like you call “pairs skating.” 

We’re like the Olympic skaters.

We’re doing a pairs skate, and we’re back and forth with our giftings in a way that we’re mirroring each other.

Synchronizing with each other and most importantly, with the Holy Spirit.

I do this, as I think you do as well, Kristi, even while I’m talking.

I will sometimes pause just for a second or two and take a breath and just say a little prayer. 

You know, “Jesus, what do you want said?” 

Or just a smile as a prayer as I look out at the audience, it could even be nonverbal. 

Because it’s embodied.

I’ve practiced it so many times that it has meaning for me that I’m waiting in your presence.

“Lord, what do you want said? What are you doing with the people? What questions do people have?” 

And so I don’t even need to think those thoughts at that moment because I’ve had those prayer thoughts. 

So many times that pause, it’s coming from my heart.

It’s deeper than words. 

I think I’m tapping into Romans 8:26, that, “The Holy Spirit within you is praying, interceding on your behalf.” 

On behalf of the people that you’re with, deeper than words, in groanings and longings, yearnings. 

That’s what we wanna be tapping into. 

Another way that we prepared, because I’ve learned different ways of preparing, I try not to over prepare for a given talk. 

But I put a lot of my preparation, not only into prayer like we’re talking about, but also into learning. 

By getting ahead of the curve with all the speaking and teaching that we do. 

And we’re doing a lot of speaking and teaching with going to churches and our Institute and this podcast and the writings… 

But to get ahead of the content preparation curve by studying and learning in my Bible studies in the books that I read. 

So that I’m absorbing for my own life and my own taking on of the mind of Christ, and growing in spiritual knowledge.

It’s building up this treasure store.

Jesus said, “The kingdom of the heavens is like the owner of a general store who can put his hands on treasures old and new” (Matthew 13:44 – 46). 

So I want to have within that safe deposit box of my soul, a treasure store of knowledge…

Of soul care practices, of experiences in my life with God,  in my life with you and other people. 

So that when I’m with people that can all come out in a Spirit-led, conversational way. 

That helps keep me from burnout and helps me be in the overflow. 

Which is what “the S stage” in the C.H.R.I.S.T. stages in our book Journey of the Soul is all about.

“The S stage” is all about overflow ministry.

Rest Fuels the Spirit-Led Speaker

Kristi 

It also enables us to minister with integrity because we are practicing and doing what we are teaching others to do. 

That’s been important for us too, because our knowledge is also experiential. 

It’s coming out of our own experience in our life with God, as well as in our ministry with him.

Bill 

Yeah. So we’re talking about “the S stage.” 

But, “the I stage” in the C.H.R.I.S.T. stage of “the Inner Journey” is something we always try to keep fresh and alive for us with Soul Talks. 

That’s why we had this podcast, to be emotionally honest. 

This is “Inner Journey” spirituality here.

But also as we are out speaking and as we’re leading our Institute, during retreat weeks and so forth, we practice TLC time. 

When we are assigning students five hours of TLC time: solitude, silence, and soul care practices and so forth. 

We do those practices too. 

When we’re traveling, we’re not always able to do this, but we try to either arrive early or stay late and have some space. 

Or like when we were speaking this last weekend at a church, we had a big block of time on Sunday after we preached in the two services.

Actually on Saturday, after we did the training on Saturday, we had a block of time where we went for a long walk. 

We probably walked about six miles, out in beauty and nature. 

And we’re talking. 

Nourishing our own souls in God’s presence, cultivating Inner Journey spirituality, that intimacy with God that’s ultimately what fuels the Spirit-led ministry. 

It’s the cycles of time where we’re quiet, like the disciples in the upper room where they’re waiting on God. 

Where we’re not working or thinking so hard, but we’re being in God’s presence. 

That’s what we were doing that Saturday. 

We were walking for hours and just having conversation as we felt led to.

And enjoying the birds and the flowers and the beauty all around us. 

Getting some exercise and some fresh air and not thinking about work.

And not worrying about tomorrow’s sermon because it’s already planned. 

So I hope that some of these ideas are helpful to you. 

As you think about your ministry as a Bible teacher, a pastor preaching sermons, a missionary who is teaching other people lessons…

Or some other work that you’re doing in the church, the family, your place of work — as you talk to people and share with people, how could you do that in Spirit-led ministry? 

That’s what we’ve been talking about. 

Hope this has been encouraging for you.

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