The medium of knowledge when it comes to public speaking is the speaker himself. It is the speaker’s responsibility to present knowledge in a coherent and respectful fashion to an audience. A public speaker delivers a message for a number of different reasons: to entertain, to persuade, to inform, to instruct. More than one of these reasons may be found in each speech. Even though there is a different level of credibility from speaker to speaker there is great power in a message when it comes to public speaking.
God calls different people to do many different things. More than likely, at some point and time each one of us is going to play the role of a public speaker at least once in life. Some people such as pastors have to deliver at least one speech a week. No matter what the reason is for someone to stand up in front of others to talk it is important to do so in a God honoring Biblical fashion. To be a public speaker and maintain a Biblical viewpoint of the practice, it is important to have proper motives, proper content, and proper delivery.
First of all, you need respectable motives when public speaking, especially in ministry. Throughout the history of the world people have tried to use religion for financial gain, popularity, and power. In the New Testament Jesus is found addressing these issues when dealing with the Scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23 and Mark 12: 38-40). When playing the role of a public speaker in ministry it is crucial not to compromise or lessen the truth for the sake of approval, attendance, popularity, or financial gain. In 1 Timothy 2:15 it says to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” When someone is practicing the art of public speaking and has no underlying selfish motives, that person has absolutely nothing be ashamed about; before God and before man.
Having proper content and proper delivery will be discussed here in an overlapping manner because both intertwine with each other when it comes to public speaking. Having good content and a poor delivery makes a poor speech. Likewise, poor content and a good delivery make a poor speech. It is clear from 1 Tim. 2:15 that there is a right way and a wrong way to handle truth. In the realm of public speaking people have both intentionally and unintentionally mishandled the truth. Some people teach error because of a lack of understanding and some teach error to intentionally steer an audience to their own selfish ends. I believe that televangelists who are trying to manipulate people to donate money is an example of the latter. Public speakers who seek to convey the truths of God’s word to an audience should do their “best” to have truthful, credible, and meaningful content.
The preparation, content, and delivery of each message spoken in ministry should be the best that person has to offer. All too often in Christian circles a message is accepted just because accepting somebody and being gracious is the Christian thing to do; even when the message isn’t that good. Accepting someone and accepting the quality of someone’s message are two completely different things. In all areas of ministry there are people who give a half hearted effort and I believe that it needs to be confronted. Instead of the church leading society in excellence, like it once did, the society is leading the church.
No matter where we find ourselves working, whether in ministry or not in ministry, we should do the work as if we were doing it for Christ. We should especially strive for excellence when we are in ministry because we are directly serving Christ. When preparing a sermon, message, or speech I believe it is important that one should do the best they can because they have great reason to give Christ their best. Christ has given them life everlasting and that should give us purpose and reason to strive for excellence in our service to Him.
Those who teach the gospel and principles found in scripture will be held to a higher standard. James 3:1, 2 says “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” The public speaker has the capacity to influence a great number of people. Preachers and teachers of scripture are going to be held to a higher standard because they have been entrusted with conveying the very words of God. Pastors and teachers are changing the way they teach today because the personality of the audience has changed. However, the pastor and teacher still have to convey the same message with the same truths as generations before.
A professor of Communicating Biblical Truth, Charlie Dates, brings to light the fact that one cannot preach the same way today as one could a hundred years ago. His reason is because the people of the audience do not have as long of an attention span as they use to. Years ago a church service would be two or more hours long. Now a day people get fidgety after a half hour or less of trying to actively listen and it is hard for them to pay attention. The reason being he says is because people’s minds are programmed to switch from one idea to another after every few seconds or every couple of minutes. This is a result of our minds consuming things such as television, radio, ads, the internet, the cell phone and living in a culture that is very fast paced.
As a result public speakers in ministry are using more and more illustrations to keep the audience’s attention. I think it should be noted that Jesus used parables quite often in His teachings to get a point across. Illustrations can be a very effective and powerful means to communicate. However, people need to be careful to use illustrations in an edifying Godly way, instead of using crude jokes or other things that seek to only entertain.
Being a public speaker is a great responsibility. I believe that it is even a greater responsibility for those in ministry because they are handling the truth of God. Those in ministry need to be able to feed others meat instead of only spiritual milk. It is important for a message not to be watered down to appease the interests of the speaker or to be inoffensive to an audience. Public speaking is an art and should be practiced with diligence and purpose.