Have you ever stopped to consider how powerful; how majestic; how potentially revolutionary your words could be? Have you ever dreamed of changing hearts and mobilising justice by the way you speak? Perhaps – like Moses or Jeremiah – you’ve resigned your tongue to silence and believed the lie that your words will not be good enough.
To this, and to Jeremiah, God says ‘I have put my words in your mouth’ (Jeremiah 1:9). You see, God loves justice and requires us to ‘open our mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute’ and to ‘defend the rights of the poor and needy’ (Proverbs 31:8-9). This is our mission statement at SPEAK; and so, by virtue of its very message, we must speak.
So with this pressing call and the knowledge that God puts the words in our mouths, we look at a few simple steps to improving your public speaking, whilst reflecting on how the old testament prophets may have delivered their calls to justice:-
One: Believe in Your Message
John Ford once said ‘you can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart’. A message that comes from the heart is often delivered with zeal and zeal; often, often because the speaker expends less effort recalling their message, leaving a total dedication to delivering with gusto.
Take a moment to think about a message someone has delivered to you that has been evidently delivered from the heart; it could be a speech delivered to many or a one-on-one conversation. Do you remember what they said? Were you moved by their delivery? Compare this to someone speaking about a subject they weren’t as interested in; which was more memorable?
Learning from the passion of Amos
Picture the scene; a once united land had been split into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judea. While the kingdom of Israel was enjoying a time of peace and prosperity, this came at a cost of many who were subject to exploitation and injustice.
Enter Amos, who – throughout the passages you are going to read – addresses the ruling elite of both kingdoms. Read the following passages, and reflect on the subsequent questions.
- Amos 2:6-8
- Amos 5:11-15
- Amos 5:18-24
1. What parallels can you draw between the injustices occurring in Israel and that of today?
2. What parallels can you draw between Amos’ prophetic speaking and what SPEAK may (or should) be doing...?
3. How does Amos demonstrate passion for the message he speaks?
4. How would you like to emulate this?
2. Know your message
It is absolutely crucial that – along with being passionate from the offset – you know your message. Again, picture the best speech you’ve ever heard; even if it was just a conversation amongst friends, it must be acknowledged that the person spent time understanding their subject. Furthermore, anyone who aspires to publically speak should also aspire to structure and prepare well.
Amos delivered a message that was laced with experiences of what he has probably had seen; in other words, he knew his message full well because he had most probably witnessed it first hand as a layman.
Task: Preparing a message
For those who are not already aware, extreme ironing is an extreme sport and a performance art in which people take ironing boards to remote locations and iron items of clothing.
Your task (in groups), is to prepare a short speech arguing for or against the inclusion of extreme ironing in the 2016 Olympics in Rio (it is fun to get into two groups and go against each other).
The idea is that you will spend time:
- Researching and getting to know the subject
- Creating a structure to your argument…
- and ultimately deciding what should and should not be included in a short speech.
3. Be creative
Today, we have become far too accustomed to a very monotone style of public speaking, where speakers hide themselves behind lecterns and Powerpoint slides. Even speakers of God’s justice and love for the poor get stuck in this straight-laced trap. Yet, by it’s very nature, justice is an exciting, prophetic pursuit and should be matched with equally creative speakers.
And it’s in the Old Testament Prophets that we find incredible examples of people taking a message and using creative (and often shocking) tactics to hammer home their message. Let’s take a look at the following examples of passionate people using stunts and creativity to endorse a public speech:-
Jeremiah and Isaiah get creative
In Groups, read both passages and discuss the preceding question...
- Jeremiah 27:1-7
What affect would Jeremiah’s act have had on his public speaking to the kings?
- Isaiah 20
What does Isaiah’s nakedness symbolise in his speaking to Egypt and Cush?
How could you use (maybe slightly less) extravagant creativity to add to your speaking?