Of General Application
The fear of public speaking is a much commented upon topic. Some studies suggest that it is in the top five social anxieties, and at least one puts it above the fear of death. Yet, most of us are comfortable sharing our views with our own “dear and near.” But why should it be so? Is it the conviction that friends and family “have your back” or the assumption that their affection for you will override any faux pas? If this is the case then we are building our security through familiarity. Fair enough.
But if we see this as security, how much more can we take comfort in anonymity? An audience is often addressed only once. And is it likely that a group of people who have gathered to hear you will bear you any ill will? Why then did they bother to come? Audiences have spent time, and sometimes money to come. They too have your back, they have a vested interest. They want you to succeed.
If what you say is safe with friends, then saying it to others is also safe. If your message is worth sharing, it is equally valuable to any hearers. Roger Love has rightly observed that, “All speaking is public speaking, whether it’s to one person or a thousand.”
Of Christian Application
So far I have been “speaking” to anyone who has apprehension about addressing others, and especially those who dread speaking to strangers. But to those who are aspiring pastors or other Christian “labouers in the field,” the point is even more fervently made to you. You have been entrusted with “the words of life.” How much more should you feel bold with your message, which in deed is not “yours” at all but that of “He who has sent you?”
Look at the call of Moses,
“So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you’ (Exodus 3: 10-14)”
Moses was sent (as are we)! But even with his more profound “call to serve” than any of us can hope for, he nonetheless responded,
“Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say (Exodus 4:10-12).”
His hesitation was countered by God. And this message is not just for pastors and evangelists. Remember always that “go ye” means “go me.”
Take heart as you speak. Make the message pure and relevant, and it will be heard. If it is not spoken, it cannot be heard. If it cannot be heard, it cannot be listened to. If it isn’t listened to, it cannot be heeded. And remember that at least of you listeners is among your “near and dear.” So near and dear that He laid His life down for you.