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.

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.

Let the Fire Glow

I have been preaching for several months already in my new local church, the Jesus Lamb of God Church. But, I feel that I lack the fire that has been present in my years of preaching.

I know that partly it is because of my lack of prayer. Also, that I lack the usual over two weeks of preparation that I had before every time I preach.

The biggest reason, I believe, is because even though I occasionally pray and study the Bible, my heart is very far from God. Many times I am guilty of disobeying God. Many times for consecutive weeks I am not able to fulfill my promise of fasting.

I know it will take much discipline and hard work, and of course God’s grace, but I will once again be close and intimate with my God and be a powerful pager again.

“A holy minister is an awesome weapon in the hand of God.” – Robert McCheyne.

This Physical Body

This physical body often puts me down
Tired and exhausted for virtually everyday
How could I do things
That I naturally would want to
If this body pulls and puts me down

Read that, these, and read those
Eyes going teary
Mind shutting down
But I should go on
Yes go on as long as there’s
Something left to hold on

Continue little soldier,
There are still many enemies
Press on student,
Requirement still go your way
Go on preacher
Souls are hungering for truth
Don’t give up Christian,
Your race is not yet done

Where is Grace
I need it more now
Please strengthen me
I do not want to die
Lead me on
Empower me
Fill me up
To the brim
I pray, yes, I beg

Everything is not about us

English: Pulpit at St Nicholas of Mira Church ...
Preaching is a sacred task that requires a sacred heart.

I stepped in and walked forward
Amidst the crowd and in front of the lights
All eyes were toward me
Seeing and beholding all my glory
And I gave my best, oh yeah
Knowing that they liked me

Cheers and whispers and smiles
They were all because of my glaring presence
I took a proud bow in my heart
Yes, this is me
I told in my heart
The most wonderful person of all
Adored and worshiped among all

Standing before the pulpit
Without any sign of nervousness
My manuscript was within my hand
Ready to deliver my grand stand
I believed I could do that well
No need to pray and depend on Someone else

I spoke with a confident voice
They all stood in awe
I knew I had it
I made myself even wiser
Flowering my words with eloquence

I walked away from the pulpit
Trying to sound wiser still
I spoke words without looking
At the papers
Impressing the crowd with
Thoughts that were locked in

In the middle of nowhere
A sudden thing occurred
I lost my words
And my mind stopped
To offer me thoughts

This could not be right
I would lost my dignity and prestige
Before all in shame

Alas! My tongue went twisted too
I could not utter a word properly
But I could recompose myself
And recuperate from this
I dictated my heart

Ahhh… Err…
My tongue would not obey me
My mind became stubborn
I felt my cheeks as hot as iron
And the people began to laugh

I took hurried downward steps
In humiliation I almost slipped
The manuscript that I was holding
Flew into the air
I never turned back to get it
All I wanted was to rush to the door

At home I cried and prayed
And in great rebuke
My Father Lord told
Everything is not about me
But everything should be done
Only for His Glory

 

The Delight of Teaching God’s Word

English: ESV Study Bible Hardcover Cover
ESV Study Bible – the Study Bible I often use when studying the Bible.

Teaching the Word of God is truly a delight. It is one of the few things in life that truly brings pleasure to my soul.

Teaching requires that we study the teaching material first. In the endeavor to teach the Bible, in any form, in preaching, Bible Study, evangelism, or others, studying it first gluttons my heart to high spiritualities. It is one of the wonders any Bible teacher experiences from time to time. It is in fact listening to God.

A true teacher of the Scriptures will do his or her best to live out what he or she is preparing to teach. This, again, fulfills the deepest longings of the soul. Any true obedient disciple of Christ knows that trying to live in the perfect will of God is one sure thing to live a meaningful, fulfilled life. It is the highest achievement any human can achieve.

Then comes the blessed task of teaching it. If we have tried our best to study and live the Message, then the act of teaching is really in a sense a completed task. It has its own duties, but once we have tried to study and live the Word, then we can be assured that God will bless also our work of teaching to others what we have experienced ourselves.