Have you ever been to a conference and listened to the speakers and thought, I could never get up on a stage like that? God might never call you to stand up in front of a large crowd, but in many ways, we are all called to teach.
As Christians, all of us are to disciple and train others in the Lord (Matt. 28; Titus 2). Discipleship will involve a level of teaching. So although we may not all teach on a main stage at a conference, this topic is one that is important for each of us to consider.
Speaking to women about their desire to share God's Word well at Revive '15 was a highlight of my year. During the pre-conference at Revive '15, we asked attendees to share with us their questions regarding speaking, and here are our top four:
How do you overcome nervousness?
I don't think I will ever be fully confident when I stand up to teach. We should fear the Lord when we are handling the Word of God. It's not something to take lightly. With that said, I think Tim Keller's book, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, is a helpful resource for ministry leaders (or anyone!).
When we go to serve, we want to be self-forgetful. We want to be most concerned that the Word is handled well, that God is glorified, and that the hearers are served and encouraged by the gospel. All we can do is open our mouths; the Lord must do the work that we are praying for. So we can rest. It's up to Him, and He loves His people!
So yes, there's a sort of fear and trembling that occurs before you get up there, but we simply want to make sure our nervousness is because we want to make God look good and not ourselves. As Keller has said, we don't want to think less of ourselves; we want to think of ourselves less.
Do you think as a new speaker I should start promoting myself (i.e. looking for speaking opportunities)
or just keep teaching and wait for God to "promote" me?
I have never sought out speaking engagements, but I have pitched articles. I think there's nothing wrong with letting people know via your website that you are available for speaking engagements. What you and I must evaluate is whether we are striving out of selfish-ambition or whether we truly have a desire to serve others.
If you sense that you are continually frustrated or angry because of the lack of opportunity, it could be a sign that it isn't the best time or that you haven't fully submitted this particular desire to the Lord. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being disappointed, but when it turns to discontentment or an idol (always concerned with and pushing this certain ministry work) then ask the Lord to help you wait well.
Also, don't despise the opportunities in your local church or community to lead Bible studies or speak at smaller gatherings. Take the opportunities that are in front of you, and perhaps the Lord would use those as a springboard into other speaking opportunities.
How much should you speak about your past before you were reborn?
This is a question I grapple with often, because I didn't become a Christian until I was twenty-two. I think it is a personal preference. I have shared much about my personal life in various articles and in my books. God has done a work of grace that can only be attributed to the power of the gospel. I share them not as a way to glorify sin but rather to highlight the redemptive work of Christ.
One thing I must remember—and something we all should consider if we have children—is are you okay with your children one day reading about whatever you are writing or in this case speaking about? That's potentially one way to weigh it.
Another way you might consider evaluating what to share and what not to is, if you are married, ask your spouse for advice about the things you are considering sharing.
Finally, if I know that my circumstance or situation involved another person, I refrain from mentioning specifics to protect the privacy of the other person.
What advice would you give in a group study setting when there is adversity to God's truth? Do you address it during or after the study is over?
If someone is sharing something that isn't helpful, or if they are obviously not a Christian, I think it's okay to share truth immediately and graciously. We are to speak the truth in love. If you can sense that it wouldn't be helpful to direct the conversation toward that specific topic, I would pull the woman aside after and see if she might have further questions or concerns. The beauty of a small group setting is that it has the potential to be a safe place for hard questions, disagreement, and hopefully unbelievers. I would seek to make it easy for people to ask questions and share openly in that setting.
How is God calling you to disciple and teach other women?