Three Ways To Improve Public Speaking

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.  Colossians 4:5-6

Everyone gets the opportunity to give a speech. You will too! Will you be effective? Will you fall on your face? Would you rather jump off a cliff?

For 50 years I have given several speeches a week. Traveling internationally, I often tally four to five messages a day. Speaking publicly at least 6,000 times in my life, I still feel that after some sermons, I don’t know anything at all about public speaking.

I’m very critical of my public speaking. One of my challenges has been to not overthink the sermon/speech/message. Before an Olympic event, you will see athletes prepare by loosening up, stretching, and warming up their muscles.

Lesson #1:  Loosen Up!

There is a time in my message preparation when I think to myself, “Grant, this is the dumbest idea ever.” This thought is bad if it comes 10 minutes before I’m on the stage.

Yes, we should physically warm up before an athletic event, but I have found that you need to “spiritually loosen up” before speaking.

As a preacher, I know my sermon can have eternal consequences for someone in the audience – it might be her first time in church in 20 years – and according to my message, she will accept Jesus and become the next Billy Graham, or leave the sanctuary vowing never to listen to another sermon.

Loosen up, Pastor Grant!

It’s all okay. Jesus is in charge.

My spiritual stretching exercise before I speak:

God, give me strength in my weakness. Take over my thoughts and voice. This could be my worst sermon but You can do miracles with it. I trust You. Give me Spirit-empowered boldness.

Lesson #2:  Sense The Moment!

To be effective in speaking, I have learned that I can fall flat on my face, and in some situations, I would rather jump off a cliff than speak. But then a moment can come when heaven touches earth through my speaking.

In sermons, I sense a moment that seems sovereign – God is there. I go off-notes and off-outline and speak in the Spirit. This is the moment! Afterward, I think, “Wow, I should write a book on this!” then I find that I was so in the Spirit that I couldn’t remember exactly what I said.

Not remembering? A result of being in the Spirit or getting older? You decide.

Lesson #3:  Arrive At The Destination

I’m just back from vacation. My wife and I went to North Myrtle Beach and then to Charleston, South Carolina. The idea of our trip was to drive the West Virginia Turnpike to get to our destination. We didn’t end up driving in circles on the turnpike.

I’ve listened to hundreds of sermons and often ask myself, “Where is the destination? What’s the point?”

Do you speak with a clear direction in mind but never arrive there? A sermon with a great “point” that doesn’t lead to a clear and Spirit-directed challenge for change is like driving on a nice highway for the purpose of just driving on a nice highway.

A great sermon drives to a point of challenge. This lesson is often missed. Lots of thought and preparation but not a great conclusion.

Three lessons to remember:  #1: Loosen Up,  #2: Sense The Moment, and #3: Arrive At The Destination.

I believe in the power of the Spirit. My words – however much planned or eloquent – don’t create eternal change, the Spirit does!

I ask the Spirit:

Work supernaturally through my sermon. Let me take a risk to release You at the end. Save the lost, heal the sick, and set the captives free. God, if You want to baptize with the fire of Your Spirit, have people fall in power, or just come forward to quietly pray to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.

I’m in; work through me!

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