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audiences are selfish

Many people have a fear of public speaking.  They get nervous, clammy, and dread standing before a group of people.  Here’s one reason why: they are more concerned about themselves than their audience.

  • Will I say this the right way?
  • How do I look?
  • What if they think I’m boring?

As long as your focus is inward instead of outward, you will never excel at public speaking (and this includes preaching).

Here’s why: audiences are selfish.

In simple terms, audiences are asking that age-old question: “What’s in it for me?”  They are looking for something that adds value to their life, their business, or their marriage.  Or, they may be willing to give you thirty minutes of their time in order to leave with a little more hope.

This doesn’t mean we don’t challenge false assumptions or simply give people what they want to hear.  Sometimes what is best for a person is exactly what they don’t want to hear.  Knowing that might make you nervous IF you’re worried about what they might think about you.  However, if you know your job is to make them think critically about a challenging issue, you’ve taken the focus off of self and put it back on to your audience.

Before I walk up to the stage to preach, I visualize specific people in the audience whom I know need to hear what I’m about to say.  I will think of them and then ask God to help me deliver a message from him to them.

For example, two weeks ago I preached on the topic of hope.  My text was the conversation from the cross between Jesus and the two thieves.  The second thief asks to be remembered and Jesus promises him paradise instead.  My main point was this: as long as you have breath, you have hope.

During the last song before my message, I thought of an individual going through divorce and the struggle he is in.  I looked across the auditorium at a man whose wife has terminal cancer.  I prayed for the mom and dad whose child had attempted suicide a few months ago.

Then, when it was time to preach, my focus was on the audience.  I knew for every struggle that I was aware of, there were many others (in the same room) that I wasn’t aware of.  As I looked out into the audience, I saw faces that needed hope.  My job was no longer to impress them but to serve them.

Whenever you are called to address an audience, ask yourself this question: “What do they need to hear?”  Then let them have it!