Preaching as Public Speaking

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True, preaching is a divine task, yet basically it is also a form of public speaking. A true preacher will eventually realise that as much as preaching involves spiritual dynamics, it also certainly includes oratory skills. These oratory skills constitute the technical aspect of preaching.

Before I tell about this technical aspect of preaching, or the oratory skills, which make us realise that preaching is a form of public speaking, let me tell first some important points to consider.

The first point is that though the technical side of preaching is important, still the spiritual side is more important. Preaching is firstly divine, then secondly it is public speaking. Preaching achieves eternal spiritual fruits, something that ordinary public speaking can never produce.

The second point to consider is that no methodology is holy, no matter how helpful it is in preaching. The techniques of delivering a sermon are never holy in themselves, though they are blessed by God as secondary tools to deliver His Word. Only the written words of God in the Bible are holy; the Word of God is holy, not our methods and techniques. The Word that we try to deliver everytime we preach is the one that revives the spirit and strengthens the soul, it is certainly not the preaching in itself.

Psalms 12:6 (KJV)  The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
Romans 1:16 (KJV)  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
1 Thessalonians 1:5 (KJV)  For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.

Now that we have already discussed that the spiritual side of preaching outweighs the technical, we can now discuss the latter, and that describes preaching as a form of public speaking.

Preaching involves skills and techniques that enhance the delivery of our sermons (not the power but only the delivery). These skills basically revolve around the use of voice, eye contact, facial expressions, and gestures and movements.

The proper utilization and creative use of voice is of utmost importance in preaching, for the fact that spoken words serve as the medium for the transmission of God’s message to the hearers. A dull and monotonous voice will certainly invite boredom in the hearers. There are four P’s that could be used for the efficient use of voice during the discourse of God’s Word.

The first P is Pitch, or the raising and lowering of voice tone. The first and probably the easiest step that we could do to avoid a monotonous and boring sermon delivery is by putting stress on some words or phrases by varying the voice tone. We could also achieve this by varying the voice volume. Generally, heightening the pitch and increasing the volume on some words and phrases would put emphasis on the ideas that those words or phrases present.

The second P is Punch, and it is very similar to Pitch in its purpose of putting a stress on an important idea. However, what differentiates punch from an ordinary stress is that punch is usually used for some climactic expressions and thoughts, and is usually achieved by either a sudden or a much more powerful change of voice tone or volume.

The third P is Pause, and it is of equal importance to punch. We utilise pause also in trying to put emphasis on some ideas. We give around a three-second pause after saying something to indicate that what we have just told is important. Furthermore, by utilising the pause technique we give the hearers an ample amount of time to digest and reflect on the important idea given.

The fourth and final P in utilizing the voice is Progress. It is maybe the hardest one to master, but if done correctly will prove not only to emphasize a good point but furthermore to elevate the hearers’ interest and to provoke a more positive response. Generally, progress is effectively achieved by the continuous increase of the voice tone and volume beginning at the start of an idea you would like to emphasize, and then concluded with a strong punch at the end. Thus, progress is indeed the combination of the techniques of pitch and punch in a prolonged manner. Finally, progress becomes even more effective if followed by a pause. Those are the four P’s for the efficient utilization of voice, the pitch, punch, pause, and progress.

Another important factor to consider in the good delivery of the sermon is the eye contact technique. The function of eye contact in preaching is twofold: the transmission of truth and feedback.

Without eye contact, no matter how well we could use our voice we will never be able to truly connect to our listeners. It is a very awkward moment for the hearers to listen to a preacher who does not look at them, most specifically at their eyes. At worst, the hearers could feel offended. With the good use of eye contact, even the preacher who has not yet mastered the use of voice will be able to connect with his listeners.

Using eye contact to connect with listeners involves looking straight at the eyes, for around 3-5 seconds. If intimidated by the listeners, you could look also at the forehead. Look at them individually, trying to connect with each one of the listeners, for the duration of the preaching, if their number is around fifty. If their number is around a hundred or more, then having a look for each one becomes virtually impossible. In this case, using creative imagination, group the entire audience into several smaller groups mostly consisting of around five people each. Then try to look at the middle person of each group, and it will give them the impression that you are genuinely interested in them.

Furthermore, eye contact is arguably the single most effective tool to gain feedback from the hearers. If you want immediate feedback during the course of your preaching, the best way is by looking at them. That way you will immediately see if they are really listening or interested, and you as the speaker will be able to adjust your delivery to suit the emerging need. Eye contact demands that we have mastery of our sermon content. It is hard to practice good eye contact with the hearers if we are  relying too much on our notes or if we are not confident enough in our own message and delivery.

Then comes the technique of facial expressions. A serious message of rebuke and correction demands a serious emotion, but could also be told with a subtle smile and a sincere look – it depends on the ability of the preacher. Generally, laughter is very much minimal in preaching, overall the general emotions permeating are those of seriousness, sincerity, love, holiness, and command – those traits characterise very much a true preacher. A careful examination on the preaching of Jesus, the Apostles, and even of the prophets reveal the same thing. This is only my personal conviction, but I am not a follower of those preachings that use jokes and laughter just to engage the listeners. In my varied experiences in preaching, I have seen how a serious delivery of a sermon could captivate the listeners from start to finish, of course, with the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit.

Other equally important factors are gestures and body movements. With gestures, we pertain to the movements of the upper body, mostly those of the shoulders, arms, and hands. With body movements, we talk about the movements of the legs and feet.

The content dictate the gestures, and not the other way around. This means that the shoulders, arms, and hands movements reflect the true emotions and thoughts of the preacher. When I was just beginning to preach, I used to practice my gestures, and my actions looked like ‘scripted movements’, there was no life in them. Later on, as I gradually developed as a preacher, it is the message that would consume my heart and mind. That way, gestures flowed out naturally, and they certainly looked natural. Powerful gestures reveal connected movements, that is, the movements of the hands are not separated from those of the arms, the shoulders, and the upper body.

Body movements involving the legs and feet contribute to the lively delivery of the sermon. Personally, I like to get in touch with the hearers in the most possible way and to communicate with them in the most personal way, and I do that mostly by leaving the pulpit and walking towards them. Occasional walking is helpful, too much is already distracting. Another helpful thing about walking is that it relieves the tension and let go of nervousness.

The general rule regarding gestures and body movements is that the larger the audience, the bigger the gestures and body movements. The larger the audience, the further the pulpit is from the audience, so the preacher will likely to be seen by all.

A climactic note that I would like to add for all of these skills is that the Spirit of God and His anointing enhance all of them. In fact, I could attest that whenever I am filled with the Word and the Holy Spirit all of these skills just flowed out naturally and powerfully. Furthermore, the Holy Word and the Spirit of God have taught me to do these skills naturally, far better than what my training and practice did for me.

So I have presented the technical side of preaching, the side that tells us that preaching is also public speaking. We do not try to learn and master this aspect for the purpose of increasing the power of our preaching – only God could do that with our humble cooperation of holiness, submission, prayer, and obedience. As Robert McCheyne once told us, ‘A holy minister is an awesome weapon in the hand of God.’

What these techniques do for us preachers are to enhance the delivery of our sermon, to make it lively, penetrating, and connecting, and to catch the interest and attention of our listeners. True, the technical side is important, but we must not substitute it to the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit to change the lives of the listeners. The true mark of a preacher is not his very good oratory skills (though it may include these), but the divine capacity to change the lives of the hearers.

*I am indebted to Mr. Haddon Robinson for some of my learnings in oratory skills in preaching. I recommend his book Biblical Preaching, second edition.

Glimpses of God’s Glory

13 JULY 2017, 10:50 PM

I am so grateful to God for this wonderful day. In simple yet powerful ways He allowed me to see His greatness.

God used me to bring His message of love and hope in the form of rebuke at the Provincial Jail with the Scripture of Lamentations 3:22-26.

Lamentations 3:22-26 (KJV) It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.

God’s message for the prisoners was: Wait on His deliverance in the time of His discipline. It was a message of rebuke, yet love and hope were present. If only they would look upon His discipline as an expression of His Fatherly love, then they would also sense hope, and bring themselves under humble submission to the rod of their heavenly Father. Instead of rebellion, they would develop in their hearts a greater love for their Father.

Hebrews 12:5-6, 11 (KJV) And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

As I was speaking His message, I could deeply sense God’s presence in their lives and their spirits were touched.

The second thing for which I was so thankful to God was my prayer time with a sister in faith. God allowed me to pray for her, releasing her from her burdens and granting her to receive more of God’s blessings. She cried in the presence of God, thankful for the freedom and peace that she received.

Am I grateful because God used me? Yes, but the main reason why I praise God is that He again allowed me to see His glory and greatness in simple yet powerful ways. I do not deserve any of these, and the fact that I am undeserving makes me praise Him even more. Truly, I am most satisfied in God when I know that God is most satisfied (and glorified) in God. It has absolutely nothing to do about me.

Go ye therefore and teach all nations


11 JULY 2017, 11:58 AM

Everytime I visit campuses, I see many many souls starving for spiritual food and helplessly being drawn to hell.

I praise God for again putting into my heart the desire to share the Gospel of Christ to students. My recent visit to the popular high school campus of the province gave me this rare chance, though not in the way I first thought it to be.

I talked to the adviser of one class asking for a permission to conduct a weekly Bible Study in his class but he refused. I thanked him and let him know that I fully understand. I visited the class and talked with some of the students. A little later God let me know that what He wants is our church member who is a student to lead the Bible Study, and not me. So, that is my new mission – to train the student.

I may not be the one in front, and does it really matter? No, what matters most is that the Gospel is preached.

Matthew 28:18-20 (KJV) And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

This is my life mission statement – to make disciples. And it always start in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

An Imperfect Man Writing the Perfect Message of God

08 JULY 2017, 10:06 PM

How can a finite and imperfect man write the timeless and perfect message of God? How is a weak human soul deliver God’s holy message?

These are the hardships and the reality that preachers face every week in the preparation of their sermons. Preparing and delivering a sermon is a lot more than ordinary public speaking. When a preacher prepares a sermon, he is basically trying to write what God desires to tell His people; when a preacher delivers a sermon he is basically becomes God’s mouthpiece of encouragement, hope, chastening, and correction. Thus, preaching connects the people of God to the heart and mind of God through the hearing of an hour-or-so public speech called preaching.

A preacher is never perfect. He often falls short if being strong in the faith and godly conduct. But it is his duty to deliver God’s message – weekly. That is the great responsibility of every called preacher. Even the Apostle Paul recognized his own sufficiency in such a great task:

2 Corinthians 2:14-17 (KJV) Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.
For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:
To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?
For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.

Despite of our insufficiency, we can rest assure that God is with us as we prepare and deliver His message, as long as we completely put our trust in Him.

2 Corinthians 3:5-6 (KJV) Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

Overnight Prayer – A moment of God’s Revival

07 JULY 2017, 11:51 PM
A week of utter weakness; a single hour of healing.

All that it needs is a single moment of praise and worship, and suddenly the shattered soul is healed.

As we sung our praises to God, what could I possibly offer to Him? I had no righteousness for the past week, virtually no prayers and Bible meditation. All that I offered to God was my broken heart – broken in true sorrowful repentance.

Psalms 51:17 (KJV) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

That offering was what God was looking to receive from me – no hypocrisy, no hiding, but complete honesty and surrender. And through that humble submission, God was able to do His wondrous work of reviving my once-wounded heart, ready again for service.

Psalms 51:12-14 (KJV) Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

Let’s Get Up Again

07 JULY 2017, 05:09 PM

In my life of constant weakness amd struggles, against hardships, temptations and the test of character, may God again help me to endure.

I may not completely know the plans of the Lord, but I am resting on Him.

Will I teach again?

Will I pursue my teaching career? Only God knows.

Isaiah 55:8 (KJV) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

The ways of the Lord, His plans and wisdom, are hard to comprehend. Much more, waiting proves to be a real challenge. Waiting tests our endurance, the depth of our character, and maybe the most of all, our faithfulness. Often when we do not understand God, or cannot anymore wait on Him, we start to choose our own ways and thinking. Often, this results in sinning.

It is always best to wait upon the Lord, fit wisdom and strength.

Psalms 27:14 (KJV) Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

Isaiah 40:31 (KJV) But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Selfless Love

Matthew 16:24 (KJV)  Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

That was the Scripture God gave me when I had a motorcycle accident in 2015, teaching me to offer my life for His service. A year later, God reminded me of the same thing – if I wanted to show love to God and to others, it must be selfless.

I had the motorcycle accident when we were traveling for our Bible Study in Naujan. I suffered a large cut on my head and the people said it was by God’s miracle that I did not suffer internal head injuries. That time, God was testing me if I would still serve Him despite what happened – it was the test of willingness to offer to God my physical life. After a year, I was not the patient anymore – it was my father. He suffered from a pulmonary disease and a mild heart attack. And still, God was teaching me to serve Him by loving others selflessly.

How did God teach me to love selflessly so I could serve Him with a fresh start?

Firstly, God taught me to deny my comfort for the comfort of others. My father suffered from a mild heart attack because of strenuous physical labors. Partly I was blaming myself because I should be the one doing those heavy labors – I knew the doctors warned my father against heavy tasks after he suffered his first heart attack in 2007.  Worse, in the hospital, God revealed my selfish heart – it was so self-centered – I hated the discomforts of staying in the hospital. I was not thinking of the discomforts of my father who was in the ICU, I was only sympathizing with my own hard feelings. I felt ashamed. How could I be that selfish!

As days went by, God was pushing me more to realize my selfishness. As I was seeing the patients and their families, my heart was aching to see them broken and hopeless. I always wanted to comfort them with the love of Jesus from the Bible – but one thing was hindering me – too much thinking of the self! I argued in my mind that I needed more sleep, that I needed more time for myself, and some other reasons. There was a clear battle between thinking of myself against my desire to serve others. I saw clearly that prioritizing my wants hindered me from loving and serving others.

Secondly, God taught me to be sensitive for the needs of others. I found it true that as you deny your own comforts to give comfort to others, you will naturally be sensitive to their needs. The hospital was full of patients and people from all walks of life – from the rural and urban places, the rich and the poor, the believers and the unbelievers – but they all shared a common trait – they were all in need.

Being sensitive to the needs of others did not call for a reactive thinking, but for a proactive one. The former was telling me to respond to the emerging needs I saw in them; the latter was instructing me to think what I could possibly do before things might actually happen. Being proactive in thinking trained me to adjust my whole life and time management. I had to wake up earlier to pray for strength and guidance. Then I would talk to some people and pray for them. I also had to think always of different ways to give strength and comfort to my father and to the others – some ways work for certain people, but not to the others. I was the one adjusting for them and not the other way around.

Lastly, God taught me to exalt Him and not the self. This was the lesson I found to be the hardest to learn. As I was ministering in the Emergency Room, the different Medical ICU Rooms, and the semi-private wards – doctors, nurses, and people began to notice me as a religious and spiritual person. Soon, I earned their respect. With their high respect and regard, I felt that my ego was being fed! The natural self-centered I was coming to life! Grant me Lord the Grace to exalt You and not the self (Psalm 115: 1)!

The test of character was even stronger when I gained friendships with the opposite sex who were attractive. Soon, I felt that I had to make my physical appearance and gestures better to maintain and develop those friendships. I really saw myself taking decisive actions to draw people to myself and not to God – but of course with the ministry as the outside covering. But God was gracious in convicting me of my sin of self-glorification, and soon I was praying for a new heart with the right motives (Psalm 51: 10). After that prayer, every time I would go out to minister to the people, I would pray first for true humility and selflessness.

During my ten days of staying in the hospital, did I really learn those three truths of selfless love? To a small degree, maybe – but I know that learning is a lifetime process. I know that in the future, in everyday life, I will find myself again being entangled so much in the self that will hinder me in loving Jesus and serving others. But my prayer is that God will always give me the Grace to fight this sin of self-indulgence, and be a more selfless person.

Whether it is the offering of life like in the motorcycle accident that I had or the denying of personal comforts and glory like in my ten days of staying in the hospital, they both call for a selfless love as my service to Jesus. For Jesus Himself, the great God (Hebrews 1: 8; John 1: 1), also denied Himself greatly of heavenly glories and humbled Himself as the Father’s Servant (Philippians 2: 6-7; Isaiah 53).

 

Soli Deo Gloria! To God alone be all the Glory!