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 Preaching V: Presentation and Public Speaking

Julian Spriggs M.A.

IV: Relevant Preaching VI: Critiquing a Message

Presentation is one of the most important aspects of preaching. It is all too easy to have good material, but ruin it with poor presentation.

The worst failing of large numbers of preachers and teachers is being boring, and quickly losing the interest of the people listening. One estimate I heard once was that about eighty percent of students think their teachers are boring, and unfortunately this is frequently true in church. If you are boring, then your message will be lost. You have wasted your time in preparation, and wasted the time of the people having to listen to you.

Style and presentation is the main thing that determines whether a message is boring, or whether it brings enthusiasm and interest to the listeners.

Some basic principles of public speaking

1. Do not try to be 'natural'

If you try to be 'natural', you will probably be boring. This is because preaching or teaching is mostly monologue, which is very different from natural speech. A normal one-to-one conversation has only very short lengths of monologue, before the other person speaks. It often has only very few gestures and is mostly in a monotone, with little or no variation in pitch or loudness of speech (unless it is an argument). If this is applied to public speaking, the result will certainly be boring.

2. Adopt the role of teacher

When speaking in public, it is essential to make a conscious choice to adopt a different role and different style from normal conversation. As a teacher or preacher you are the centre of attention for a group of people, and are therefore in a defined role.

3. Increase your energy level

When you come in front of an audience, you need to make a deliberate increase in your energy level. It is necessary to become a bit larger than life, and be more expressive and animated than you normally are. This takes energy and will make you tired, but you need to do it for the sake of your listeners. Staying at a normal or low energy level will have the result of you being boring.

4. Adapt to your audience

Your style and presentation needs to be different with a larger group, than it is with a smaller group of people. As a general guideline, the larger the audience, the greater energy level you will need to use, because you will be further away from many of your listeners.

With a small group, formal preaching or teaching is less appropriate. It can be more effective to adopt a more informal style, even to sit round a table and teach with more interaction and discussion.

Try to reduce the distance between you and the audience. Being up on a stage is suitable for a large meeting, but not so appropriate for a smaller group.

Keys to prevent boredom

1. Enthusiasm and passion

If you are not enthusiastic about your subject, your listeners won't be either. People will tend to remember teachers who were enthusiastic about their subject. If you love your subject, and are enthusiastic about it, then that is very contagious.

The preacher needs to have a passion for Jesus. Teaching and preaching the Word of God is not an academic exercise, but a proclamation of life-changing truth in the power of the Holy Spirit. If God has changed your life, you should naturally be excited about it. Like Jeremiah, you need to have "fire in your bones" (Jer 20:9). However we need to be careful not to have enthusiasm without good content, as that can be very dangerous, and mislead people.

2. Use of your voice

Speaking in a monotone will quickly kill any interest your audience has, as it is one of the major causes of boredom. To keep interest, you need to employ a variety of speech. The volume of the voice should range between loud and soft, the pitch between high and low, and the speed between fast and slow. If you remain at average volume, pitch or speed, then you will quickly become boring. You will need to speak more slowly than in a normal conversation, particularly to a larger group.

It is also of the utmost importance to speak clearly, to enunciate your words distinctly, and not to mumble. You will need to learn to project your voice, speaking from your chest, so a person at the back of the room can hear you clearly, particularly if you do not have a microphone. Projecting the voice does not necessarily mean speaking more loudly.

It can be good to practice in an empty hall with a friend listening at the back. During your message it can also be helpful to have a friend at the back who will be honest enough to make signs to you if you are speaking too quietly, or too quickly, or are getting boring.

3. Eye contact

Eye contact with the congregation is essential. Look around the group as you speak, from front to back, and from left to right, and include the balcony if there is one. Another major cause of boredom is lack of eye contact, when the speaker has his head in the notes all the time, or continually looks above the heads of the audience. However, you should not focus your attention on one particular person.

4. Gestures and movement

Rather than holding onto the pulpit out of fear and insecurity, do not be afraid to use your hands and arms to communicate. In front of a congregation, you will need to use larger gestures than you are normally comfortable with. At a distance, smaller gestures will not be very visible. If you have enough confidence, try and come out from behind the pulpit, and stand nearer the audience.

You need to be careful not to use the same gestures all the time, as these become a distraction. The most effective way of showing up any annoying gestures is to ask someone to film you speaking, then play the film back double speed.

Techniques to keep people’s attention

These are some suggestions of how to improve your presentation, and make your speaking more interesting to listen to.

1. Variety

Bring some variety. Do not always do the same thing. Vary all the aspects of your speaking, including the structure of the message, the way you present your message, your use of visual aids, even where you stand to speak.

2. Illustrations and stories

Stories and illustrations are powerful, as people often remember the stories more than the message. A message should have several illustrations, so it can be good to plan which illustrations you will use, as you prepare the outline of your message. Every major point of a message needs a story or illustration. Many preachers make a collection of good illustrations and anecdotes, which they can use when appropriate.

Stories can be found from many sources. An easy source is your own personal experience of life. However, you must be careful with confidentiality if you tell stories about other people. The Bible is full of stories, illustrations and examples. History is another good source of stories, including church history, and the history of Christian missions. Many good illustrations can be found in general reading, including novels, magazines and newspapers. There is no reason we cannot use our own imagination and make up stories, as Jesus did when telling parables.

3. Transparency

Tell the audience something about yourself. This can be something that happened recently, some event during your childhood, or how the message you are preaching made a change to your life.

4. Humour

Do not be afraid of using humour, if you are confident in using it, as it always gets people’s attention. Humour can be spontaneous, or it can be planned during your preparation. The Bible does describe funny events, and make amusing comments.

However humour must be used carefully. It must not be irreverent towards God, frivolous, crude, coarse, or casual about sin. We need to ask, “Is it edifying?”. We need to be careful we do not encourage people to laugh at immorality or other sin.

We also need to ensure that we do not allow the use of humour to distract from what God is doing in people’s lives at that time.

5. Emotion

You should deliver the content of your message with the appropriate feeling, which will lead the audience to have the appropriate feelings. Boring teachers tend to show no emotion. However, you should avoid the opposite extreme of being over-emotional.

6. Creativity

Use your imagination to do something a bit different. One example is to tell well-known Bible stories from a different perspective, perhaps focussing on one of the minor characters and telling it from their point of view. You could invite some people to give a role-play, or even do it yourself!

7. Use of visual aids

The main thing to consider with the use of visual aids, is that they must be big enough and distinct enough for the congregation to see them clearly.

One of the main pieces of equipment to use today is PowerPoint, where information on the computer is displayed on a screen. An increasing number of churches and organisations have this available. You will need to learn to use the PowerPoint programme to design your slide show. I suggest that you try out the equipment and run through the display in the room beforehand. In some churches you can control it from the pulpit, otherwise you need someone to change the slide when you request it. If you want to use PowerPoint, it is courteous to arrange it beforehand with the church, and send them your slide-show file a few days before, so they can set it up for you.

There are many different things you can use PowerPoint for. These are a few examples:
Photographs of Bible places, or archaeological artifacts
Drawings of Bible characters, places, or events
Cartoons of Bible events
Maps - (make sure the map is not too detailed, so it can be seen clearly)
Diagrams - (either you draw them, or copy them from elsewhere)
The main points of your message, and the Bible references
A breakdown of the passage you are preaching on

The Internet is a wonderful source of images, but you need to be careful not to break copyright laws. Make sure that you are allowed to use the image for teaching or educational use. If you have a scanner, you can use diagrams or pictures from books, but again you need to keep the copyright laws.

More traditional visual aids include the whiteboard, or blackboard. This can be helpful for drawing diagrams, or writing key words. You need to be able to write clearly, and large enough for people at the back to read clearly. The Overhead Projector (OHP) was the main piece of equipment for several years, until largely superceded by PowerPoint. Prepared acetates were useful for diagrams, maps, or listing main points. Again your writing must be clear. It is best to avoid the use of red or green coloured pens, as these do not show up well.

For a smaller group, or in a teaching situation, you may consider giving out printed material on a hand-out. These can contain abbreviated notes with the main points and Bible references, maps or diagrams. The main thing to is not to make them too long - one or two pages at the most.

Use of language

1. Theological language

You need to be careful with theological jargon. If you use any long or technical theological words, you need to define what they mean. (You could use the Powerpoint for this). It is also important that you define more familiar Christian concepts, such as grace, justification and redemption, as it is very important that people know their meaning. Resist the temptation to show off your knowledge by using long and complicated words.

2. Pronouns

You also need to be careful with your use of pronouns, so you do not separate yourself from the audience. The use of 'we' is more inclusive than 'you'. You are a fellow Christian with them, so identify with them. Do not give the impression that you have your life completely sorted out, and that you have completely applied all the principles of scripture. However, avoid the opposite extreme of seeming a failure. You need to show that your message is effective in your own life if you want it to change the lives of the people listening.

Other points to note

1. Reading Scripture

You need to learn how to read the passage of Scripture in an interesting way. This takes practice. You also need to learn to read clearly, and without making too many mistakes. Try to bring a more dramatic reading, using your voice to communicate effectively with feeling, otherwise the reading can become very boring. Reading from the small sized print from a standard size Bible can be difficult when standing at the pulpit. You may want to print it out using a larger font and wider spacing.

2. Reading from a book

You may find a passage in a book you have read recently which makes a perfect illustration for your message. Again, the danger is becoming boring, as reading a long passage from a book effectively is very difficult. It can be better to summarise the story in your own words, and only read very short key sections.

3. Use of notes

Very few people are able to preach without any notes. The best notes are brief, noting the main points and sub-points, Bible references and illustrations. Some people use small index cards. Make sure that the writing or print is of a large enough size so you can read it easily when standing at the front. It is best not to write out your message word for word, and then read it, as that makes it boring to listen to. You will need to experiment to find what sort of notes suit you best.

4. Asking questions

It is appropriate to ask questions to the audience when you are in a teaching situation, rather than preaching in church. In most churches you will not get much, if any, response if you ask questions when you are preaching. However, some congregations will respond to questions, and it can be a good way of involving the people listening to you. Remember to ask open questions, those which will make them think.

With a smaller group it is possible to have quite fruitful discussions. For more on asking questions, and how to lead small group Bible studies, please see the Small Group Study page.

5. Workshops

You may be able to split the people into smaller groups, and give them some questions to discuss, followed by feed-back to the rest of the meeting. This is not normally possible when preaching, but some churches may be used to doing this. It is very time-consuming, so needs to be planned carefully.

6. Receiving questions

Again, in a teaching situation, you need to let your audience ask you questions. You need to decide what you are happy with: whether you allow questions during your teaching, or to leave them to the end. In only very few circumstances will you be asked questions while you are preaching in church. However you need to be willing to answer questions if people come up to you at the end of the service.

If you do not know the answer, be honest and say you do not know. However, you may think of some other relevant response.

7. What do you wear?

The basic rule of what to wear, is to be slightly better dressed than your audience. You need to aim not to dress too smartly or too casually for the group. Wearing a suit and tie to speak to the youth group will tend to distance you from them. However people may frown on jeans and tee-shirt in a church service. Most churches are more casual today than they were in the past.

You will probably feel embarrassed if you are not dressed appropriately, so if in doubt, you can contact the person who invited you to speak, and ask what dress would be appropriate to the group.

IV: Relevant Preaching VI: Critiquing a Message

The Bible

Pages which look at issues relevant to the whole Bible, such as the Canon of Scripture, as well as doctrinal and theological issues. There are also pages about the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and 'lost books' of the Old Testament.

Also included are lists of the quotations of the OT in the NT, and passages of the OT quoted in the NT.

Why These 66 Books?
Books in the Hebrew Scriptures
Quotations in NT From OT
OT Passages Quoted in NT
History of the English Bible
Twelve Books of the Apocrypha
The Pseudepigrapha - False Writings
Lost Books Referenced in OT

Old Testament Overview

This is a series of six pages which give a historical overview through the Old Testament and the inter-testamental period, showing where each OT book fits into the history of Israel.

OT 1: Creation and Patriarchs
OT 2: Exodus and Wilderness
OT 3: Conquest and Monarchy
OT 4: Divided kingdom and Exile
OT 5: Return from Exile
OT 6: 400 Silent Years

New Testament Overview

This is a series of five pages which give a historical overview through the New Testament, focusing on the Ministry of Jesus, Paul's missionary journeys, and the later first century. Again, it shows where each book of the NT fits into the history of the first century.

NT 1: Life and Ministry of Jesus
NT 2: Birth of the Church
NT 3: Paul's Missionary Journeys
NT 4: Paul's Imprisonment
NT 5: John and Later NT

Introductions to Old Testament Books

This is an almost complete collection of introductions to each of the books in the Old Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Genesis Exodus Leviticus
Numbers Deuteronomy

Joshua Judges Ruth
1 & 2 Samuel 1 & 2 Kings Chronicles
Ezra & Nehemiah Esther

Job Psalms Proverbs

Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations
Ezekiel Daniel

Hosea Joel Amos
Obadiah Jonah Micah
Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah
Haggai Zechariah Malachi

Introductions to New Testament Books

This is a collection of introductions to each of the 27 books in the New Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Matthew's Gospel Mark's Gospel Luke's Gospel
John's Gospel

Book of Acts

Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians
Galatians Ephesians Philippians
Colossians 1 & 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy
2 Timothy Titus Philemon

Hebrews James 1 Peter
2 Peter 1 John 2 & 3 John


Old Testament History

Information about the different nations surrounding Israel, and other articles concerning Old Testament history and the inter-testamental period.

Canaanite Religion
Israel's Enemies During the Conquest
Syria / Aram
The Assyrian Empire
Babylon and its History
The Persian Empire
The Greek Empire
The 400 Silent Years
The Ptolemies and Seleucids
Antiochus IV - Epiphanes

Old Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for OT studies. These include a list of the people named in the OT and confirmed by archaeology. There are also pages to convert the different units of measure in the OT, such as the talent, cubit and ephah into modern units.

More theological topics include warfare in the ancient world, the Holy Spirit in the OT, and types of Jesus in the OT.

OT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Jewish Calendar
The Importance of Paradox
Talent Converter (weights)
Cubit Converter (lengths)
OT People Search
Ephah Converter (volumes)
Holy War in the Ancient World
The Holy Spirit in the OT
Types of Jesus in the OT

Studies in the Pentateuch (Gen - Deut)

A series of articles covering studies in the five books of Moses. Studies in the Book of Genesis look at the historical nature of the early chapters of Genesis, the Tower of Babel and the Table of the Nations.

There are also pages about covenants, the sacrifices and offerings, the Jewish festivals and the tabernacle, as well as the issue of tithing.

Are chapters 1-11 of Genesis historical?
Chronology of the Flood
Genealogies of the Patriarchs
Table of the Nations (Gen 10)
Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9)

Authorship of the Pentateuch
Chronology of the Wilderness Years
Names of God in the OT
Covenants in the OT
The Ten Commandments
The Tabernacle and its Theology
Sacrifices and Offerings
The Jewish Festivals
Balaam and Balak
Highlights from Deuteronomy
Overview of Deuteronomy

Studies in the Old Testament History Books (Josh - Esther)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the history books. These include a list of the dates of the kings of Israel and Judah, a summary of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and studies of Solomon, Jeroboam and Josiah.

There are also pages describing some of the historical events of the period, including the Syro-Ephraimite War, and the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701 BC.

Dates of the Kings of Judah and Israel
King Solomon
The Kings of Israel
King Jeroboam I of Israel
The Syro-Ephraimite War (735 BC)
Sennacherib's Invasion of Judah (701 BC)
King Josiah of Judah
Differences Between Kings and Chronicles
Chronology of the post-exilic period

Studies in the Old Testament Prophets (Is - Mal)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the OT prophets. These include a page looking at the way the prophets look ahead into their future, a page looking at the question of whether Satan is a fallen angel, and a page studying the seventy weeks of Daniel.

There are also a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of two of the books:
Isaiah (13 pages) and Daniel (10 pages).

Prophets and the Future
The Call of Jeremiah (Jer 1)
The Fall of Satan? (Is 14, Ezek 28)
Daniel Commentary (10 pages)
Isaiah Commentary (13 pages)
Formation of the Book of Jeremiah

Daniel's Seventy Weeks (Dan 9:24-27)

New Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for NT studies. These include a list of the people in the NT confirmed by archaeology.

More theological topics include the Kingdom of God and the Coming of Christ.

NT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Kingdom of God / Heaven
Parousia (Coming of Christ)
The Importance of Paradox

Studies in the Four Gospels (Matt - John)

A series of articles covering various studies in the four gospels. These include a list of the unique passages in each of the Synoptic Gospels and helpful information about the parables and how to interpret them.

Some articles look at the life and ministry of Jesus, including his genealogy, birth narratives, transfiguration, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the seating arrangements at the Last Supper.

More theological topics include the teaching about the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete and whether John the Baptist fulfilled the predictions of the coming of Elijah.

Unique Passages in the Synoptic Gospels
The SynopticProblem
Genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1)
Birth Narratives of Jesus
Understanding the Parables
Peter's Confession and the Transfiguration
Was John the Baptist Elijah?
The Triumphal Entry
The Olivet Discourse (Mark 13)
Important themes in John's Gospel
John's Gospel Prologue (John 1)
Jesus Fulfilling Jewish Festivals
Reclining at Table at the Last Supper
The Holy Spirit as the Paraclete

Studies in the Book of Acts and the New Testament Letters

A series of articles covering various studies in the Book of Acts and the Letters, including Paul's letters. These include a page studying the messages given by the apostles in the Book of Acts, and the information about the financial collection that Paul made during his third missionary journey. More theological topics include Paul's teaching on Jesus as the last Adam, and descriptions of the church such as the body of Christ and the temple, as well as a look at redemption and the issue of fallen angels.

There are a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of five of the books:
Romans (7 pages), 1 Corinthians (7 pages), Galatians (3 pages), Philemon (1 page) and Hebrews (7 pages)

Apostolic Messages in the Book of Acts
Paul and His Apostleship
Collection for the Saints
The Church Described as a Temple
Church as the Body of Christ
Jesus as the Last Adam
Food Offered to Idols
Paul's Teaching on Headcoverings
Who are the Fallen Angels
The Meaning of Redemption
What is the Church?
Paul and the Greek Games

Romans Commentary (7 pages)

1 Corinthians Commentary (7 pages)

Galatians Commentary (3 pages)

Philemon Commentary (1 page)

Hebrews Commentary (7 pages)

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the study of the Book of Revelation and topics concerning Eschatology (the study of end-times).

These include a description of the structure of the book, a comparison and contrast between the good and evil characters in the book and a list of the many allusions to the OT. For the seven churches, there is a page which gives links to their location on Google maps.

There is a page studying the important theme of Jesus as the Lamb, which forms the central theological truth of the book. There are pages looking at the major views of the Millennium, as well as the rapture and tribulation, as well as a list of dates of the second coming that have been mistakenly predicted through history.

There is also a series of ten pages giving a detailed commentry through the text of the Book of Revelation.

Introduction to the Book of Revelation
Characters Introduced in the Book
Structure of Revelation
List of Allusions to OT
The Description of Jesus as the Lamb
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
The Nero Redivius Myth
The Millennium (1000 years)
The Rapture and the Tribulation
Different Approaches to Revelation
Predicted Dates of the Second Coming

Revelation Commentary (10 pages)

How to do Inductive Bible Study

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study the Bible inductively, by asking a series of simple questions. There are lists of observation and interpretation questions, as well as information about the structure and historical background of biblical books, as well as a list of the different types of figures of speech used in the Bible. There is also a page giving helpful tips on how to apply the Scriptures personally.

How to Study the Bible Inductively
I. The Inductive Study Method
II. Observation Questions
III. Interpretation Questions
IV. Structure of Books
V. Determining the Historical background
VI. Identifying Figures of Speech
VII. Personal Application
VIII. Text Layout

Types of Literature in the Bible

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study each of the different types of book in the Bible by appreciating the type of literature being used. These include historical narrative, law, wisdom, prophets, Gospels, Acts, letters and Revelation.

It is most important that when reading the Bible we are taking note of the type of literature we are reading. Each type needs to be considered and interpreted differently as they have different purposes.

How to Understand OT Narratives
How to Understand OT Law
Hebrew Poetry
OT Wisdom Literature
Understanding the OT Prophets
The Four Gospels
The Parables of Jesus
The Book of Acts
How to Understand the NT Letters
Studying End Times (Eschatology)
The Book of Revelation

Geography and Archaeology

These are a series of pages giving geographical and archaeological information relevant to the study of the Bible. There is a page where you can search for a particular geographical location and locate it on Google maps, as well as viewing photographs on other sites.

There are also pages with photographs from Ephesus and Corinth.

Search for Geographical Locations
Major Archaeological Sites in Israel
Archaeological Sites in Assyria, Babylon and Persia
Virtual Paul's Missionary Journeys
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
Photos of the City of Corinth
Photos of the City of Ephesus

Biblical Archaeology in Museums around the world

A page with a facility to search for artifacts held in museums around the world which have a connection with the Bible. These give information about each artifact, as well as links to the museum's collection website where available showing high resolution photographs of the artifact.

There is also page of photographs from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem of important artifacts.

Search Museums for Biblical Archaeology
Israel Museum Photos

Difficult Theological and Ethical Questions

These are a series of pages looking at some of the more difficult questions of Christian theology, including war, suffering, disappointment and what happens to those who have never heard the Gospel.

Christian Ethics
Never Heard the Gospel
Is there Ever a Just War?
Why Does God Allow Suffering
Handling Disappointment

How to Preach

These are a series of pages giving a practical step-by-step explanation of the process of preparing a message for preaching, and how to lead a small group Bible study.

What is Preaching?
I. Two Approaches to Preaching
II. Study a Passage for Preaching
III. Creating a Message Outline
IV. Making Preaching Relevant
V. Presentation and Public Speaking
VI. Preaching Feedback and Critique
Leading a Small Group Bible Study

Information for SBS staff members

Two pages particularly relevant for people serving as staff on the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) in YWAM. One gives helpful instruction about how to prepare to teach on a book in the SBS. The other gives a list of recommended topics which can be taught about for each book of the Bible.

Teaching on SBS Book Topics for SBS