Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience (1 peter 3:15-16 NIV)
Yesterday morning I drove out to New Port Richey to speak about this "hope that I have", at the Trinity Presbyterian Church of Seven Springs. I may have been advertised as the "preacher" for the morning, but I always insist I'm simply sharing a few thoughts and stories at the time-slot where there would normally be a sermon.
So here's what I'm learning about speaking in public:
- Most importantly, I can't talk about faith with any credibility if I'm not practicing it deliberately in my own life.
- I need to spend quality time with God during the preparation; it's the first and most critical element of the process. Additionally, I need to set aside some time with God that very morning, before I even climb in the car to drive to the place where I'm scheduled to talk.
- Enthusiasm is a must. The quality of the words are only a small part of the equation - they have to be launched with passion and sincerity, in a manner that suggests I really do believe what I'm saying.
- Authenticity is the strongest selling point of any message. When people realize that I'm not reading someone else's script, and that everything I say is coming from my heart, then things such as erudition and smooth speaking skills become secondary. Have you ever heard a joke told by someone who really believed it was the funniest story they'd ever heard? That sense of belief, a confidence that is unshakable, is infinitely more important than "slick" presentation or comic timing.
This idea of authenticity is something I wish the politicians understood. Good grief! Just stand up and speak from your heart!
No spin necessary; no need to impress; no need to adjust your message because the focus group said so. People simply want to hear from the real you, and they will only be able to predict what kind of a leader you're going to be if they know you - the real you - and can have some confidence regarding the kind of person who's going to be representing them in office.
I'd rather elect a politician I honestly disagree with on some issues than one who falls over backwards to tell me everything some focus group told them I probably want to hear!
BOTTOM LINE: All I know how to do is to tell a few stories about where and how God is meeting me in my day to day life. It's not hard to be enthusiastic about something like that. I'm learning to be less anxious about the presentation, I'm learning how to engage my audience, and I'm learning to recognize what an awesome privilege it is to encourage other people in their journey.
But most of all I'm learning how to rely on God. After all, it's God's story I'm sharing. All I do is talk about how I fit in to what is still The Greatest Story Ever Told, and then invite the people listening to live their story in that context too.
Blessings for a Monday filled with hope in believing - DEREK