Telling the Gospel to Those Who Haven’t Heard It

I’m sorry that my posts have been infrequent lately–I’m trying to take some time with family this summer, because my year coming up is going to be so busy!

But I have some things on my mind that I thought I would share with you.

One of the things that happens once a speaker has been speaking for a while is that we tend to get known outside of our traditional circles. For instance, while I speak mostly to evangelical church groups, I also write a family column in our local paper. And so lots and lots of non-evangelicals know who I am, and they know I speak.

And so every summer, when many ministers take vacations, I get asked to guest preach at small rural United Churches near the town where I live. For my American friends, think a combination of Episcopalian and Methodist. Very mainline.

I never charge my full fee. I consider this a real honour, and a real responsibility that God is giving me. It is one thing to speak to an evangelical audience and challenge them. It is another thing entirely to be asked to speak to a mainline church to people who may never have heard the gospel properly.

That is a humbling thing indeed.

'Message in a bottle' photo (c) 2009, Sergio Aguirre - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/I’ve been praying all week about what I will say, and the message that I have settled on is about drifting: you cannot drift towards heaven. It has to be something deliberate.

I’m going to open with the story of an experiment that took place off of the Brazilian coast. Two identical wine bottles were dropped, with messages inside, off of a boat. One drifted east, washing up one hundred and thirty days later off the coast of Africa. The other drifted northwest, landing in Nicaragua one hundred and ninety days later. They started in exactly the same place. They ended up half a world away from each other.

We can never drift closer to something we care about. We only ever drift apart.

And so I am going to talk about how we cannot drift through life; we need purpose, and we need to know where we are aiming. And I’ll take it from there.

One thing I have found when speaking before mainline audiences is that they are passionate about things like faith and purpose. They aren’t as comfortable with Jesus. But if you can open with the things that they are passionate about, you can then bring in Jesus afterwards.

As always, I find that bringing in humour, and even props, helps people to listen better.

And so even though this will be one of my smallest audiences this year, and even though it may look rather insignificant, I am considering this one of my most important speaking engagements. And if you all could take a minute to pray for those who will be listening, I would so appreciate it!

Have you had this sort of blessed opportunity, to present the gospel to those who may not have heard it? What did you do? Let me know!

Guest Post: How God Used the Food Network to Speak to Me

Guest posting for me today is Kelli Wommack.

Ok, so I admit it.  I am a big Food Network fan.  There’s something in me that enjoys watching others prepare gourmet meals.  Maybe I think that by watching, it will somehow magically change my cooking success or better yet, that watching it releases me from ever attempting such feats as a cook.  My favorite FN show is the Next Food Network Star.   So, I know the show isn’t terribly spiritual.  But in a recent episode, God used the panel of judges’ statements to finalists to remind me of some key spiritual truths.

“You have so many parts of life that only you can talk about.  See where that leads you.”  

Yes, this was said on the Food Network.  It moved me…spiritually.  It was if God was saying the same thing to me… “Why do you compare yourself to others?  Why do you wish for someone else’s platform?  I have created you and shaped you just the way you are and you have a unique life story that only you can tell.  Stop trying to be someone else or speak and write like someone else.  Just be you…and see where that leads you.”

“Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.” Galatians 5:25 – 26 (MSG)

“It’s interesting to me when we find these finalists who are running from what is in their bones.”

Not chicken bones, mind you.  These finalists were detouring from their passion, their backgrounds, their callings.  Why do we run from the very thing that God has placed in us…our calling?  Is it because of boredom, laziness, neglect, comparison to others, disobedience, or my personal favorite, FEAR?  Must I remind you of our friend Jonah who was called to go to Ninevah to preach the gospel and “he joined those going to Tarshish — as far away from God as he could get.”

Whatever the reason for running away from our calling, we need to run to the One who called us.  He is there to meet us, to equip us, to encourage us, to cast out fear.  Remember, “The One who calls you is FAITHFUL and He will do it.”  1 Thess. 5:24

“She shows a lot of passion, she just doesn’t have any focus.”

Ouch.  I know this statement wasn’t directed toward me personally, but it sure could have been.  The female finalist receiving this critique was very passionate about food, cooking, and even the show, but she lacked knowing who she really was and focusing on her unique perspective.  I have to admit watching her, she was all over the place.  She lacked focus.  I feel this way often.  I show a lot of passion for God, for His Word, for my family, for ministry, but I often lack focus.  I want to be a passionate woman of God…with focus.  God’s Word tells us the only way this is possible is to focus on Him, get to know Him.  He provides the passion…and the focus.  Paul writes this for the church at Ephesus:

“I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do…”  Ephesians 1:15 (MSG)

So, what part of this spiritualization of the Next Food Network Star resonated with you?  Do you stray from your originality…your story?  Do you run from your calling and if you do, why?  And finally, do you lack focus?  Comment below!

For over 20 years in ministry, Kelli Wommack has been enthusiastically sharing God’s story with children, youth, college students, and adults of all ages.   Kelli has a passion to help others see how God has uniquely written their personal life story to reveal His presence and purpose.  Her love for God’s Word and the body of Christ shine through her as she encourages, equips, and empowers others in their walk with God. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her blog.

Faithful Steps to Becoming a Faithful Speaker

I’m taking some time off this summer, and I’ve invited people to send in guest posts about where they are on their speaking journey. Angela Mackey from Rethinking My Thinking shared this with me, and I thought it would really help you, too!

In junior high I had trouble standing up in front of class to give an oral report. In high school I decided to join the debate and speech teams because I had something to say and in tournaments judges have to listen. I never practiced enough and I rarely put in the work necessary to do well. I did mediocre and I moved on.

In college I began to feel the pull to speak. During chapels (I went to a private school), I decided I wanted to be on stage. I wanted to speak to others about God, but I didn’t imagine that would fit with my nursing degree very well.

After I graduated and married, the hunger to speak and teach about God grew. Yet it felt far away. I facilitated a few Bible Studies and ended up helping lead a MOPS group for six years. That is where the speaking bug got me good. I led Bible Studies, book studies, and spoke on a few topics that I felt qualified to speak on. Each time I stood up in front of those women, I felt God’s smile on me.

When it was time to step out of MOPS, I did it with trepidation. Yes I wanted to expand my speaking platform, but I was giving up a guaranteed gig. The growing pains and fear of the unknown shocked me, but I stepped out in obedience to God.

God gave me opportunities where I already was involved. I worked with the fifth and sixth graders at my church. God opened the door for me to speak to this group about once a month during the school year. Doors began to open and shut. God gave me steps to take each day, one after the other. As I obeyed He provided opportunities.

Here are some steps I took:

  • I began a newsletter that I mail three times a year to women’s ministry directors at churches in my area.
  • I e-mailed MOPS groups in my area and offered myself as a speaker.
  • I started a blog that is also my website.
  • I started a YouTube channel for video blogs and speaking excerpts.
  • I recorded myself while I spoke and edited the video so I have excerpts of talks on the web.
  • I asked for people to give me written referrals to include on my website and bio sheet.
  • I started a Twitter account. When I tweeted about a speaking excerpt I uploaded to my blog, Sheila asked me to write this blog post.
  • On Facebook I started a fan page in which I post prayers based on scripture, offer chances to discuss topics, and provide links to blog posts.
  • I pray above all that God is glorified and that others are blessed as I obey Him.

All of these steps have stretched me. I used to feel like I was promoting myself, but now I feel like I am promoting the message God gave me to share. If no one knows it is available then who will hear the message? So I step out as God calls me. Each day doing what He leads me to do.

Have I arrived with a huge speaking platform? No. Am I doing what God wants me to do? Yes.

What are you doing to expand your speaking platform?

Let us know in the comments! And be sure to look Angela up at Rethinking my Thinking,  or on Facebook.

Watch this blog for the announcements of the Speaker Summer School that’s coming in August: we’ll talk getting bookings, publishing a book, and perfecting anecdotes!

Is It “Unspiritual” To Charge a Fee When You Speak?

Question mark made of puzzle piecesphoto © 2008 Horia Varlan | more info (via: Wylio)

I’ve been conducting speaker training for two years now. Most of you who come to this site truly want to speak in the Christian world. You want to speak in churches, at camps, to youth groups. You want to make a difference for God. You want to share the message that God has given you. But you can’t do this without receiving some sort of compensation, because you need to be bringing in some income.

Does that make you unspiritual?

That’s an important question, and it’s interesting that it seems to come up pretty much solely concerning female speakers. Male speakers, after all, are paid all the time. They’re called “pastors”. But many ministries to women exist that do not really believe in compensating their speakers.

In fact, I read a thread from one of these ministries where people were appalled that one speaker asked for about $150 to cover her gas, rather than the traditional $50 or $75 that the group paid. How could she think of doing that?

And yet, my question would be, how could she not?

I’m afraid that many women speakers are battling this idea that to ask for money makes us unspiritual. I find this puzzling, because at these Christian events, the people have paid caterers. They have bought decorations (and thus paid stores). They have, at times, rented halls. It was not unspiritual to pay for food; it is only unspiritual to pay for food for your soul. Very strange.

But I’m also opposed to it for two reasons: the first is scriptural. The second is practical. Let’s tackle them both in turn.

1. The worker is worth his wages.

The Bible clearly states in 1 Timothy 5:18 that “the laborer is worthy of his wages”.

In other words, those who are involved in ministry should be paid. They should not be expected to do it for free. Certainly those in the New Testament church sold their belongings and gave to the poor, but that was their choice, and they were giving to their own community. I often take the money that I receive from speaking and give it away, but I give it away to the charities I support. If I go to a church that is two hundred miles from where I live, I do not know that church or its ministry. I want to support the ministries that I do know. To expect a guest, who is not part of your fellowship, to pay your fellowship for the privilege of speaking (which is what it amounts to if a group does not pay adequate travel expenses), is unreasonable.

Now some groups don’t pay because they don’t have the money. I’ve spoken at both churches and groups who apologize profusely for not paying, and I don’t mind that at all. They have little money, and so they can’ t pay, even if they want to. What bothers me is the groups that make it an issue of spiritual pride that they do not pay, so that no one becomes puffed up. I think this is a misunderstanding of Scripture, and can be damaging to their own group.

2. If you don’t pay, you damage your own ministry

Here’s where I really see the problem, though. Becoming a gifted, effective speaker is something that takes work. Yes, we are gifted, but that gifting needs to be trained. It needs practice. I have always been a gifted speaker, but I am so much better today than I was eight years ago because I have had so much practice.

Who are the best speakers out there today? Those who are actually speaking to groups that hire only good speakers. When a medium-to-large size church hires a speaker for an evening, that speaker knows that he or she has to really prepare. She has to be engaging. She has to be a little bit funny. She has to be able to speak well. She has to have an effective, well-crafted message. And so she works hard to be that.

The groups who insist on not really paying speakers are also saying, “we don’t believe that speakers should have practice or a lot of training, because that’s worldly.” Certainly they may give some training themselves, and I know groups that do train their speakers to a certain extent, but the best speakers are those who have spoken to a variety of groups, not just one type of group. They are speakers who have had to adjust to different personalities or circumstances. Speakers who have had to develop different talks, or gone deeper into the Word to find new material and new thoughts.

I used to speak for a group that didn’t really pay, going to a number of different circuits and speaking to a number of different individual groups under their umbrella. And I can tell you that the quality of speaker there differed tremendously from the quality of speaker at most women’s conferences I attended, simply because once people got good, they left.

Some women are comfortable speaking for no money, because that’s their ministry, and if God is calling you to that, that is perfectly okay. But we need to understand that it is not unspiritual to be paid for one’s work, and in fact, being paid for one’s work usually brings better quality.

I still speak for free occasionally when I feel God prompting me to. I often speak for little or no money when it’s a real opportunity to share the gospel to people who haven’t heard. But I don’t speak for organizations who refuse to pay speakers well as a rule, thinking that this is spiritual. It’s not. What they’re really looking for in speakers are people who are completely dedicated to their particular ministry, and not to ministry as a whole. That cuts down the number of potential speakers drastically.

It also puts an undo burden on the speakers, asking them to be away from home–from family responsibilities, from children, from their own churches–far more than the organizers of these events are. The speakers travel; the others don’t. And they are asking the speakers to take the money out of their family’s pockets to pay for these speaking trips, because it costs money to drive to different groups. They say this should be done in the name of “ministry”, but I question whether it is ministry to ask children or husbands to sacrifice without compensation. That can cause a lot of family friction and hardship.

I come back to the Bible: “a worker is worth his wages”.

My conclusion? Listen to the Holy Spirit and be open to speaking for free. But you are not unspiritual if you ask to be paid. You are simply being faithful to your family and enabling yourself to grow as a speaker, and that is a good thing.

What do you think? I know this is a controversial subject, and I’d love to have some of you chime in!

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