“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” 1 Peter 3:15
When Moses gave the excuse: “O My Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before, nor since You have spoken to Your servant, but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” The Lord said to him: “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now, therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” Exodus 4:10-12.
The Anger of God
When Moses still tried to get out of the call of the Lord and requested “O My Lord, please send by the hand of someone else…” We read that “The anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses…” Exodus 4:13-14.
The All Sufficiency of God
God’s servant is God’s responsibility. The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you. Where God guides, He provides. “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it…” Psalm 127:1
Scripture Alone is our Authority
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for Doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. I charge you therefore, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will Judge the living and the dead at His Appearing and His Kingdom: Preach the Word! Be ready, in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2.
Every Thought Captive
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
Know Your Audience
Who are you going to be speaking to?
What particular concerns do they have?
What would your host like you to speak on?
What results are they looking for?
Where does your audience stand on these issues?
Will you be speaking to a hostile audience?
An undecided group?
To people who already share your convictions?
How will this meeting be advertised?
How many people are expected?
How much time have you been allotted?
What can you say and what can’t you say?
Why have you been selected to speak to this particular group?
In what way are you going to benefit your audience?
What information do you have to give that they are unlikely to receive from another source?
What actions do you want them to respond with?
What do you want to happen as a result of this meeting, or series of meetings?
Appearance is Important
Your appearance is important. Dress appropriately. Before you have even said one word, your audience will have formed a first impression of you by your clothing, grooming and body language.
Posture and Movement
Maintain good posture. Stand up straight. Never slouch. Don’t lean on the lectern . Don’t rock back and forth. Beware of any nervous movements which can distract from your message and irritate the audience. Don’t fidget with jewellery , your hair or anything else. Don’t put your hands in your pockets and jangle your keys! Don’t clasp your hands or cross your arms. (This is interpreted as being closed to your audience.)
Leave time for questions and answers. A productive discussion will reinforce your message the best. This helps people to think through the topic, particularly a controversial or frustrating topic.
Ask questions that are meaningful, such as: “Do you have any questions or concerns?”
Do not give the rhetorical question: “are you with me?”
Questions and Answers
Encourage questions, maintain a sense of humour and do not be touchy and take offence. Sometimes, to give your audience the time to think you could have two questions of your own ready to prompt them. If no one responds to your initial: “Questions? Any questions?” You may say: “Some people have concerns about…” and then give the answer. Then you can walk to the other side of the platform and offer to answer questions again. If there are still no questions, you can give your second prepared question, which should be very different from the last. “Often people ask…” answer that and then offer to answer questions again. If there are still no questions, close with your original conclusion, offer to be at the back afterward if people would like to chat and thank the audience for their time.
Speak to Their Needs
Avoid clichés, stock phrases and meaningless repetition. Try to put yourself in the position of those you are speaking to.
What are their concerns?
What are their needs?
What issues are they facing?
Dealing with Volatile Subjects
When you are dealing with a volatile issue, acknowledge that by saying something like: “this discussion revolves around a very emotional issue. However, let us try to set aside the emotional aspects and examine the facts from a balanced and objective perspective.”
Without compromising the Biblical position, you can say something like: “I do understand what you are saying”, “A lot of other people hold to that position as well”, deal with the issue, do not attack the person.
Paul in Athens
On Mars Hill, at Athens, the Apostle Paul was disturbed to see that the city was full of idols (Acts 17:16). Yet he did not communicate the anger he felt against the blatant idolatry. We read that: “he reasoned” with the Jews and Gentiles in Athens.
The Unknown God
Taking his cue from the altar to the unknown God, he said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown God.’ Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you. God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of Heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with human hands. Nor is He worshipped with man’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath and all things. He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth and has determined the pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being… God… now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness…” Acts 17:22-31
Evangelising in a Hostile Environment
Paul on Mars Hill gives us an example of evangelism in a hostile environment, by finding something in their culture to use as a stepping stone to capture their attention and to awaken their curiosity. He starts with God and Creation, with our spiritual longings and the need for Repentance.
When you receive an invitation to speak on a certain subject you should first brainstorm, write down briefly with words and symbols everything you can think about on that subject, including sources, Scriptures, principles, examples, illustrations, action items, etc. Then you should review your ideas and organise them, starting with the problem, the Scriptural principle, and illustrations, first in the Bible, then from history and contemporary and personal experience. Then you should prioritise the most important ideas starting from the least important to the most important group of ideas, or illustrations. This could be summarized as brainstorm, organise and prioritise (BOP).
Avoid the temptation to overwhelm your audience with information. Recognising the limitations of time and peoples’ capacities, you need to select the most appropriate and effective Scriptures, illustrations and action items to focus on.
Aim For Results
Consider what attitude you want your audience to develop concerning the chosen subject. Determine what actions you want your audience to do as a result of this presentation. Then consider what advantage you are offering them through the material you will be presenting.
Energise Your Audience
Make your presentation come alive by relating a Bible story or an historical illustration, or a personal anecdote, which will help the audience understand and relate to the principle you are communicating.
You could also start with a current topic of debate, or a pressing need, crisis or problem which this presentation deals with. Or you could start with a question which demands resolution.
Do’s and Don’ts!
Do not kill the clock by giving long drawn out answers.
Do not look at your watch, or notes while someone is talking to you.
Do not cross your arms as if you are challenging your audience.
Do not get side tracked into peripheral issues or tricked into going way off your topic into some volatile issue.
Try to keep focused on what the meeting has been advertised to deal with.
Respect the time of your audience and keep the question time on what interests the majority of them.
Do not allow anybody to dominate, or to hijack the meeting.
As the presenter, you are responsible to maintain control and ensure that the meeting stays on track, and finishes on time.
Dealing with Disruptions
If a questioner is very disruptive you should request the organisers to remove the offending individual. If someone erupts with great hostility and emotion, try to use a soft answer to turn away wrath. “I'm sorry, you seem so upset, are you alright?” or “You seem so angry, are you angry with me? I'm not angry with you.”
If the individual continues to want to hijack the meeting in an unconstructive direction, you could say: “For the sake of time and others who may have questions, I'm going to have to move on and give someone else a chance, but I would be happy to meet with you afterwards. Next question?” By the time you say “next question”, walk towards the other side of the platform, breaking eye contact and moving away from the hostile person.
If the person continues to try to hijack the meeting, you can calmly and firmly respond: “I'm sorry, we need to respect the whole group of people here. This meeting was advertised for … and we must stay focused on that subject.” Or “I am conscious of the time and want to respect the concerns of the audience. You can talk to me about that matter after the meeting.”
With a person who rambles on and on, you can say in a kind voice: “I'm sorry, I'm afraid I'm lost, what was your question?” You could also say: “For the sake of time could you please phrase that as a question?”
Radio Programmes and Debates
On Radio programmes you may only have time for a couple of short sound byte statements. Make sure you have powerful, hard hitting statements, such as:
Pornography is the theory – rape is the practice!
Pornography and prostitution are two sides of the same coin.
Pornography infringes on the human rights of women and children – their right to privacy, dignity and protection.
Life begins at conception. Abortion is murder.
Have Complete Notes
Have your facts at your fingertips. Take your handbook, notes and relevant articles. Plan what you want to say. Write down your key points. No matter what the question, ensure that you present the most important points that you want to say. Learn how to bridge from any question to deal with the most important material that you have on hand.
No matter what the provocation, remain confident, calm and reasonable. Focus on the facts. Be logical and rational. Refuse to be provoked into an emotional or irritable response. No matter how hostile the interviewer, ensure that you respond in a measured and objective manner. For radio interviews on Abortion, Pornography or Homosexuality, print out Frequently Asked Questions from the www.christianaction.org.za website.
Be sure to use positive words: We are not anti-abortion, we are pro-life! We are not anti-pornography, we are pro-family! We are not anti-homosexual, we are pro-moral. Refer to the baby, not the fetus. The mother, not the pregnant woman. Control of pornography , not censorship .
Keep Your Focus
Keep focused on your main points. Do not allow yourself to be tricked onto rabbit trails and red herrings. Your time is limited. Use it wisely, carefully and strategically. Ensure that you have well-worded statements and sound bytes, to present; such as: What we see influences what we think, and therefore what we do. Ideas have consequences. Pornography is addictive. The United States Attorney Generals Commission on Pornography declared that hard core pornography is a manual for rape.
Give Contact Details
Try to give an address, website or phone number for documentation and more information on the subject. “Those who want documentation and statistics on this should visit www.christianaction.org.za or phone: 021-689-4480.”
Ensure that you have a strong closing statement such as: “Women need protection and respect. Not meaningless public holidays and pious platitudes from hypocritical politicians. We need to ban pornography and execute rapists!”
Make the best preparations you can, do everything you can, and trust God to do what you cannot.
“Do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that: For it is not you who will speak, but the Holy Spirit.” Mark 13:10
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa