Appendix 8: Giving Your First Bible Talk
The Need is the Call
It’s quite common worldwide that someone learns the Gospel and is baptized, and yet initially they find themselves in isolation, for whatever reason. They share the Gospel with others, and they too are baptized. And then... problems can start to arise. The new believers meet together, and there’s an awkward silence, indeed often everything is so awkward that sometimes they just don’t meet; because nobody feels qualified to lead the meeting. We may feel adequate to share the basic truths of the Gospel with others, but to effectively pastor a small group may seem quite beyond our adequacy and simply not the thing we are good at. But if someone doesn’t do the job, the group will break up, and true Christianity isn’t intended to be lived in isolation. One simply way around the problem is to simply read or listen to recordings of teaching material. But in the end, groups of new converts are intended to grow towards autonomy and spiritual self-sufficiency, rather than depending upon those in other areas who first taught them the Gospel. Someone has to rise up to the challenge.
The feeling of inadequacy is in fact our greatest qualification to do the job successfully. For it is the humble who come to God’s word and the work of leading His people with trembling, who are the most qualified and effective in God’s service. Pray for strength and wisdom, as Solomon asked for wisdom in order to benefit God’s people. Whilst we are given talents which we are to use in God’s service, we are also asked to carry a cross- which may involve going right against the grain of our nature, rising up reluctantly to do a job which others aren’t doing, and our very inadequacy becomes the vital quality which God will use. As God told an inadequate Gideon, “go in this your strength”.
Consider your Audience
Choose your Bible passage, and read through it with prayer several times. Consider your audience. What do they need to hear, what warning, what comfort? Choose the issues you are going to address, and recognize that some issues are worth leaving for the time being- just as Jesus ‘left’ the demon issue. In considering your audience, remember that those men and women who sit there before you wearing normal clothes, talking politely and acting in a very normal manner, have all had awful experiences and traumas in their lives. We know that, because the Gospel goes to the broken, imprisoned and tearful. Women have had secret abortions, men have had secret affairs, people have felt guilt and experienced abuse so awful that they often take their stories with them to their graves, untold to anyone. Don’t underestimate that, even though you don’t know the details. Confess your own inadequacy; you are a shepherd who is also a sheep. In considering your audience, ask yourself what you all have in common. You may all be black, or white, or Russian, or people who all lived under a former regime which has been toppled; you may all have in common that you have rejected trinitarianism, belief in a personal Satan etc. Play on that fact, so that the group gels; once the group are all nodding their heads in agreement with what you’ve said, you can better move on to teach them things about which perhaps not all of you will agree. And whilst teaching new things, be sure to reinforce what you have already taught or what you have all already learnt about basic doctrinal truths of the Gospel. In all you say and teach, be Christ focussed; for supremely it is He whom we have in common.
The key verse is perhaps Mark 4:33: Jesus taught the word to the people as they were able to hear it. Not as He was able to expound it, but according to their ability to hear. There’s little point in talking about the meaning of Greek words and the need to avoid error about the atonement to a brother in the final stages of cancer. You need to read and re-read your chosen section of Scripture many times, asking yourself questions about every phrase- why, when, where, how. Teachers typically teach at a level about 90% below what they know. Thus lecturers teaching undergraduates typically have a PhD; schoolteachers teaching chemistry have a degree in chemistry. If you’re teaching people all you know about a subject, you’ll find it hard to engage usefully with their questions or discussion about it. Your reading and research on your chosen passage of Scripture will only have a small part of it reflected in what you teach publically. Public teaching isn’t the same as writing a book or article about the verses you’re considering. Your audience will only remember a few things from all you say; after a few weeks, they may remember only a few percent of all you said. Teach like God and Jesus do- by repeating the basic bullet points you’re making. You might even like to write them out. You always have a wide range of experience and ability before you when teaching the Bible- some have been Bible reading believers for many years; for others, this may be one of the first times they’ve ever read the verses you are commenting upon. But however mature your audience, all need reminding of basic truths. Therefore make your comments practical, and don’t get involved in exposition for the sake of exposition. That sort of thing can be better expressed in written form. Remember too that the overall strength which believers take away from a meeting is only partially due to the words of the speaker; it’s in conversation and sharing of experience that people find practical encouragement. Think how the ambience of the meeting you’re setting up can be improved; don’t overestimate the significance of you as a speaker. This will also help you feel better about any criticism you receive for what you say. People are inspired by people rather than abstract ideas; and remember this when choosing which Bible passages to expound. Character studies of David, Ruth, Samson etc. will engage attention far easier than an exposition of Romans.
In researching your verses, you’ll run into commentary which seeks to extract significance from the original Hebrew and Greek words. I’d suggest you don’t make any points based around the meaning of the original; not only are you likely unqualified to have an opinion about the meaning of the original, but your audience likewise will tend to get lost at this point. Likewise, try not to make your bullet points depend upon any specific translation; exposition and teaching on this level should easily commend itself to the listeners and not depend upon re-translation of the Bible text they have in front of them. Decide what you want to impart to your listeners, and get the message over in simple bullet points. Don’t use long sentences. Don't quote too many Bible verses to prove your point- three is quite enough. Whilst personal anecdotes can support the point you’re making, don’t over use them; for we preach not ourselves but Jesus Christ. People want to understand the Bible; they don’t come to meeting to hear about your personal experiences. And what for you may be very significant in terms of personal anecdote they may or may not find impressive. If your aim is to get bullet points over, then you won’t allow questions until you have said your basic message. Not until you are an experienced speaker will you be able to handle interruptions and questions presented during your presentation. Make your presentation, and only then open it up to discussion. One of the common mistakes I saw in training secular teachers was that they would walk into a classroom and immediately open up a discussion about something, e.g. nuclear disarmament. The pupils discussed, but they were all over the place. They needed to be taught some facts first, and only then be asked to discuss them.
To the Glory of God
Be prepared for criticism, directly and indirectly. Anyone who stands up in a group and teaches is asking for criticism. The focus of attention is on you for that 30 minutes. You can try to break this by getting members of the group to read out the Bible verses you quote, and by being as visual as possible in order to take the focus away from you. But in the end, serving God’s people has never been easy, and is often a thankless task- as so much Bible history reminds us. Don’t expect great response; when you don’t get it, you won’t feel deflated. We’re only sowing seeds, the seeds of God’s word, one or two of which will hopefully take root and glorify God. Pray before and after your presentations that this will happen, knowing that people will remember and reflect upon at least something, however small, of what you have said- that’s why you need to quietly pray for your work after your presentation. Be self-critical and seek to assess your work; if at all possible, record your talk and play it back. You’ll see how you tend to use certain phrases, which helps you get more in touch with yourself and to see yourself from outside of yourself. Reconsider your bullet points, and ponder to what extent you got them over. Think back on the Bible talks you have listened to, and ask yourself what you remember, and why. It’s typically throw away comments, asides, rather than the main thrust of exposition, which we remember. Analyze your asides very carefully. And always, always, consciously seek the glory of God in what you are doing.
From other sources:
Presenting the Word
‘The Energy of Delivery’
- Is.3:3 – ‘eloquent orator’ – Heb. ‘discerning, attentive’ – ‘whispering incantations’
Exhortation – The objective is not to be discerning and deceptive in the power of speech - objective is to portray the power of the message!
- Acts 24:1 – Tertullus – paid as an orator to convince one way or another
Exhortation – The objective is not to convince one way or another due to our ability to speak publicly and present an argument – portray the word in such a way that it convinces the audience.
- Exodus 4:10-16 – Moses – admire his humility, frustrated by his non-willingness
Exhortation – God has provided the words – willingly perform and overcome hesitation. Using God’s word we need to be a combination of Moses and Aaron.
- I Cor. 2:1-4 – Paul did not depend on his own eloquence.
Exhortation – ‘My speech and my preaching not with enticing words of man’s wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of the power of God.’
Key to a great presentation!
- Need a dedicated location – open your books, leave them and go away
- A high percentage of original material is essential – easier to communicate with passion and enthusiasm
Rehearsing – out loud – in mirror (helps work on eye contact)
- ‘rehearse’ = ‘REHEAR’ – Minimum 4X
Lack of preparation manifests itself in many ways:
- Audience discomfort
- Lots of pauses
- A monotonous word for word reading
- Short duration
- Repetitive nervous phrases
2 Components – What is heard + What is seen
1. WHAT IS HEARD
- Affects your relationship with the audience
- Too Soft
- Too Loud
- Match volume to room size and number of people
- Project your voice to those sitting in the back of the room
- Variation of volume
- adds variety
- used for emphasizing important words or ideas
- lower your voice for dramatic emphasis
- increase volume building to climactic point
- Refers to how high or low your voice is
- Everybody has a wide range of natural pitch
- Flows up and down naturally in conversation
- In front of an audience can tend to be flat, dull & monotonous
- Variety in pitch - vitality, excitement, enthusiasm, commitment
- Everybody has a natural rate of speech
- Anxiety often causes an increased rate of speech
- Rapid pace – difficult for audience to follow train of thought
- Slow pace – creates restless, impatient audience
- Variety in pace - creates interest and emphasis
- Control of pace - communicates sense of confidence to audience
- Appropriately used, adds sense of depth, control, and quiet confidence
- Pausing before or after an important point draws audience attention
- Used to relax, observe your audience, collect your thoughts, and prepare an answer to a question
- ‘um, ah, and ah, er, okay, are phrases we use to fill the void during ‘think time’ and may be distracting.
- Add no value to presentation – distract from message and detract
from the credibility of the presentation
- May occur when eye contact is broken
- Solution – make direct eye contact and let silence fill the time as
you transition to your next thought
2. WHAT IS SEEN
- Can convey confidence or nervous energy
- Feet – planted firmly with weight evenly distributed
- Poised but not stiff, relaxed but not sloppy
- This will ‘ground’ you in a way that assists in conveying your message
- Avoid swaying and shuffling feet
- Arms not stiffly held at sides, no hands in pockets, not white knuckling
- Gestures will come naturally as you gain confidence
- Definite gestures to those seated farthest from you have the biggest
- CRITICAL! Is a vehicle for establishing a relationship with your audience
- Communicates a willingness to listen to your audience through their non-verbal cues
- Encourages you to focus your attention outward toward your audience and away from yourself
Effective Eye Contact
- Maintain eye contact with an individual to the completion of a thought.
- Avoid looking at the ceiling or floor when pausing – look at audience.
- Avoid focusing on one area of the room – cover all areas of audience at least once during talk
- Don’t fix on a point beyond the audience
- Envision yourself as God’s tool to impart some aspect of his message.
- Pray for his help in preparation and presentation.
- Impart words that are genuine.
- Display a humble confidence as you speak God’s word.
- Ask God to help sharpen his communication tool that is you, in both what is heard and what is seen.
Ecc.10:12 – “words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious”
Ps.45:1-2 – “my tongue is the pen of a ready writer…grace is poured into thy lips”
Pr.15:23 – “a word spoken in due season, how good is it!”