As Christian speakers, we want our talks to centre on God’s word. I’m reminded of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:2:
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
Nevertheless, I think there are right ways and wrong ways to use the Bible in a talk. What I’m going to say comes from my own personal experience; you may not agree with me, and indeed, feel free to disagree in the comments! Let’s get a discussion going here! But here are some thoughts to get us talking:
1. People will only remember a few things.
Think back to the last sermon you heard. How many points from that sermon can you remember? How many Bible verses? Chances are it’s quite low; on average we remember 1 or 2 things.
I think, however, that most speakers forget this, and use too many Bible verses when they speak, which makes their talks less effective. I’ve seen speakers speak and then everytime they say anything, they put a Bible verse up on PowerPoint to prove what they’re saying. It’s good to have Scirptural support for what you say (and indeed, we should), but I would caution against putting too many verses up there. As soon as you do, people go into “student” mode. They think you’re expecting them to remember all of these, and they know it’s hopeless, so they often tune out.
Or, they get a pen and start frantically writing everything down. The problem with introducing too many verses is that it diminishes the importance of the verses that you DO want them to remember especially.
I tend to have one Scriptural passage that my talks revolve around. Maybe it’s Hebrews 12:1-3, or Philippians 3:4-14, or Romans 8. I use different ones for different retreats. But those are the passages that I want them to remember. So I say them several times. I have them on the screen, if I’m using Powerpoint. We make bookmarks with them.
I often do bring in other portions of Scripture, but I’ll do it by way of illustration, like using an anecdote. I don’t tend to make my main point from that Scripture. So I’ll retell a parable, or I’ll recount a story from the Old Testament. When I do this, however, it’s in a different tone, so that people realize they don’t have to remember everything I’m saying; it’s an illustration to help them remember the main point, so they can relax and just listen.
Here’s a rule in speaking that I have found:
The number of points/Bible verses that people will remember is inversely proportional to the number of points/Bible verses that you use.
If you have a ton of points, they’ll likely remember none. If you have only 1 or 2, they’ll likely remember them. It’s just easier. So I would suggest having one main Bible passage, and use Scripture otherwise to illustrate your one passage. Don’t prooftext everything; it confuses people. Stick to the main passage, and recite it several times at several points in your talk.
2. Don’t Open with Scripture
God’s Word is the answer to the problems that we face in our lives. It’s the roadmap for what we should do. However, you can’t seek for the roadmap until you know you’re lost; you can’t find an answer until you ask a question.
A talk is not like a sermon. We’re not there primarily to teach; we’re there to connect with people and lead them on a journey so that they’re willing to listen to God. If you open with Scripture, people immediately start thinking, “she’s preaching at me”, and they get their backs up. Or they start thinking that this doesn’t apply to them, because they don’t have that particular problem. Or, perhaps even more commonly, they assume you’re going to be boring. It’s not pretty, but that’s the way it is.
Instead of opening with Scripture, open your talk by “selling” the problem. Show people that they have a heart need. Use stories and anecdotes to show them that there is something wrong in their lives. Then you bring out Scripture as the solution to that heartfelt need that they have already acknowledged. It makes them much more willing to listen to the solution Scripture offers.
If you’re not sure how to do this, I have a marvelous teleseminar on how to Craft a Life Changing Talk, which takes people step by step through this process of what goes into a talk and when. We talk about how to use Scripture and much more! Find out more here.
3. Actually Use Your Bible
It sounds silly, but do read from the Bible. Don’t just print out the passage with your notes and read from your notes. Hold a Bible up and read it–even if you have the passage memorized. There’s something about seeing someone hold a Bible which matters to people. It gives the Bible the reverence it deserves, and it shows people that they should be cracking theirs open, too. It’s subliminal, but important. So read from your Bible!
What do you think? How do you handle Scripture during a talk? And do you have a favourite version that you use? Let me know in the comments!
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