Last week a friend said that she had blown it when she taught Bible study. Because she felt disconnected and disorganized with her presentation, she was discouraged and wondered if she should quit. Thankfully, she realized that the enemy wants to discourage us when we do God’s kingdom work, so she searched out others whom she trusted to speak the truth in love. I have taught or spoken many times when I left with the feeling that the message flopped, so I understood exactly how she felt.
I thought it might benefit all of us who speak in some capacity as Christians to hear from others with experience. I invited Claudia McGuire, one of our team members, and Susie Hawkins and Dianne Miller, who coach our team members as speakers, to share their insights on this issue.
Q: When you speak publically and are left feeling that it didn’t go well, how do you handle that?
DIANNE: If one desires to be a speaker, then one has to acknowledge the “rollercoaster” and refuse to ride it. By this I mean that there will always be ups where you “feel” you did a great job, a homerun, and everyone applauds. But there will always also be the downs where you “feel” you blew it—you forgot your notes, you stuttered, or no one applauds. To speak is to refuse the ride. To speak is to give God the best you’ve got for that moment, asking Him to speak THROUGH you and to use the results to His glory NO MATTER HOW YOU FEEL you did.
CLAUDIA: I have to ask if it is just a feeling or if it is true. If I had blank stares, people disconnecting, not looking in my eyes or confused looks, then it probably didn’t go well. When I see one or two of these signs from the audience, I may ask for questions. I may mentally decide to explain something more clearly, take a different approach, or tell a story that gives a clear example of what I am talking about. I try to get it back on track in the moment, if possible. Afterwards, I have to let it simmer a while. I don’t want to jump into thinking how bad it was or throwing a pity party for myself.
Q: How do you decide if the enemy is trying to discourage you or it you truly missed God’s message or power?
SUSIE: I always tend to blame myself. While I know the enemy can discourage me afterwards, he does that whether I feel like I had a good message or not! But as I think back on some of those times, I think I “overthought” a topic, misread my audience, or tried to give TMI (too much information).
DIANNE: If you forget the commitment not to ride the rollercoaster, you may feel “better” sometimes and “worse” others. Decide that before you speak. If you forget the commitment not to ride the rollercoaster, and depend on your own strength, whether you do “good” or “bad”, confess your lack of dependence on His Spirit.
Q: What do you do when you determine that the problem was you?
CLAUDIA: I spend time doing some self-talk. What was I thinking? Was this beyond what I was capable of doing? Did I know the audience, the size of the group, their purpose? Was I clear on what they were asking me to provide? Did I spend enough time in prayer and preparation? I think if it was really bad, I would contact the coordinator and speak with her directly.
SUSIE: Just decide not to let it happen again—and maybe to pay more attention to the details of the event. What is the theme? Who are the people that will be there? What are they looking for?” Also I always ask myself, “Could someone who heard my message answer this question in one sentence: ‘What was the message about?’” If they can, then it was a success. If not, then maybe I wasn’t clear enough.
Q: What encourages you to persevere when you feel that you have blown it?
DIANNE: It really gets back to how close you depend on the Holy Spirit to speak through you and trust He will use even what you feel is failure.
CLAUDIA: I know that God’s Word does not return empty; so something was good about what I did. The message was for someone and if nothing else, it was done in obedience because I believe that God was part of inviting me to do it. Was it good enough for me? Probably it will never be completely good enough for me. (I’m my worst critic.) But, I’m encouraged when others ask me to speak. That is a type of affirmation from God that He would give me another chance.
Thank you all for taking time to share your encouraging and helpful insights for our readers who will inevitably have the ups and downs of the rollercoaster, as Dianne puts it.