Throughout my life, I have heard many people offer speeches. I’ve heard good and bad, interesting, funny, too long, and too short speeches. I’ve heard skilled people speak and those who sounded like they had never spoken before. I remember the great speeches. They seemed well planned with little error or disruption. But I wonder if the speaker, while preparing his or her speech, ever thought: “I have to be the best servant speaker that I can be.”
Yes, I said servant speaking. The phrase “servant speaking”, in my opinion, sums up the purpose of speaking. Quentin Schultze, in An Essential Guide to Public Speaking: Serving Your Audience with Faith, Skill, and Virtue, writes that we should use the gift of speech to serve others. In other words, we are to be “servant speakers.” But what is servant speaking and how do you become a servant speaker, especially if you are a speaker of the faith?
Servant speaking is about responsibility. If given the gift of speaking, then we have a responsibility to serve others. Everything starts with the gift of communication. “We should use the gift of communication wisely to form public associations such as neighborhood groups, city commissions, and nonprofit clubs.” Overall, servant speaking is about using a communication gift to speak up for other people. Servant speaking is not only about performing a great speech but helping others in certain situations. Schultze writes that a servant speaker must be ready to, “defend the essentials of the faith, empower the voiceless excluded from public discourse, expose wrongdoing, and repair others’ wrongly damaged reputations.” A good servant speaker listens well, prepares well, and addresses obstacles.
Some of the challenges that speakers face are fear, ego, and depending too much on talent. Fear can be one of the greatest problems for speakers because it can affect everything. One of my greatest fears during speaking is going blank. I know I can confront this fear by being prepared and by not being so hard on myself. My focus should be on the people I have come to serve.
I believe that a speaker can overcome fear by overcoming his or her ego. Schultze reminds his readers that ego can get in the way of any speaker, but often ego affects skilled speakers. Sometimes being too good at something causes a sense of arrogance. A servant speaker does not rule with ego. Servant speaking is about skill; but it is not all about skill.
At this point in my reading of Schultze’s book, I took many notes. I remember taking a public speaking class in college. The main focus of the class was developing speaking skills because with these skills, in a way, I was supposed to become a great public speaker. According to Schultze, “Rather than doing the hard work necessary to become good speakers, we can fall into the trap of looking for a few simple tricks of the trade. We search for new techniques that will impress audiences. These techniques become magical solutions to our speaking problems – like spoken abracadabras.”
In other words, skills are important but we have to really do our work as servant speakers; this is how we become good speakers.
So, along with skill, a servant speaker should prepare by doing the essential research that will produce a very thematic, unified speech. We need to be prepared to listen to others and most importantly yourself. How many people really listen to themselves before speaking to a crowd? This is not arrogant. If you really listen to yourself speak, you can better critique your speech before you speak before an audience. Also, you can better identify the purpose, meaning, strengths and weaknesses of your speech, sermon, prayer, or presentation. A servant speaker has a responsibility to be truthful. This can one of the greatest challenges for speakers because sometimes others do not want you to be honest. It is one thing to be a great speaker; but a speaker that is great and honest can be a threat.
As people of the Christian faith, we have the responsibility to speak truth. God’s word is true and we represent him. We cannot be servant speakers without being “truth-tellers.” Overall, servant speaking is about virtue. As a servant speaker, I should be more concerned with my character than my outside appearance. In other words, I can present myself as a good speaker, but who I am internally really shows my true speaking ability.
According to Schultze, being a Christian servant speaker means I must walk in the fruit of the Spirit because this makes me a great speaker. Character and skill are essential. From reading Quentin Schultze’s book, I feel that I have been given the answer to the nagging question: What is the true purpose of speaking? Honestly, I thought the answer would be more complicated but the answer is summed up in one word: Servant.
Guest blog by Brittani Pipes, Northern Seminary student and member of a class on worship entitled “Everything BUT Sermon and Song.”