Pastor Kevin Sanders

"He must increase, but I must decrease." -John 3:30

Confessions of a Frightened Public Speaker

Imagine this: A large room or auditorium packed with students. Maybe there are 200 of them; or maybe even 900+. The seminar starts off in a typical fashion, with opening remarks and the national anthem or the school hymn. Finally you are introduced as the guest speaker and it is your turn. For the next hour or two, you will be educating, inspiring, and to a certain extent entertaining some young minds.

Does this sound like a dream come true for you? It is for me too. To be completely honest, it is also my worst nightmare come true.

Here’s what I mean: I am by nature shy and therefore completely terrified of public speaking. “Hindi halata” (it isn’t obvious) is what most people say when I disclose this little secret. It may not be obvious, but it is true.

Maybe you think I am exaggerating. I’m not. I was the kid who hated doing a presentation in front of the class. The more people present, the quieter I became.

I remember one of the first youth Sundays we had at church. I had to lead the whole congregation (300+) in a prayer. I came down from the safety of the choir loft and bowed my head before I got anywhere near the microphone. I walked up to the microphone, gulped, and managed to utter a short prayer, not daring to look at the congregation again until I had made it back to the safety of the choir loft.

I kind of wondered if God knew what He was doing when he called me to serve Him. Ministers get up in front of people to preach and teach. “I’m not sure I can do that,” I thought to myself. When I think about God’s calling on my life, I think of the conversation He had with Moses:

Exodus 3:10-12
But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”

Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.”

I can relate to the fears that Moses had. I don’t really remember arguing with God when He began calling me. I knew Him well enough to know that I wouldn’t win the argument. My church supported me and even allowed me to preach my first sermon to them on a Wednesday night. “Nervous” cannot even begin to describe the way I felt. “God,” I prayed, “this has to be the craziest thing I have ever attempted in my life. If this is a disaster, it is your fault.”

The sermon went pretty well, but hopefully I’ve improved as a speaker over time. The rest is, as they say, history. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined the opportunities God has given me. It is all because of Him. Just as Moses would have been content to live his days in the desert, I would have been content never once speaking in public.

I’ll quote another stanza from “Just Like You” by Jacob’s Trouble:

Well I’m staring down the barrel of a loaded microphone
While a crowd of faces wait expectantly
Well I wonder what you’ve come for
And I wonder what you need
And I wonder why you’re listening to me
Cause I don’t have the answers, baby I can’t get it right
But I’ll to my best to point you to the light, tonight

I still get nervous sometimes when I am about to preach or present a seminar. Sometimes it is still hard to believe anyone would want to listen to me. This is the wonderful thing about God–He takes us out of our “comfort zone” and uses us in ways we never would have imagined.

Maybe you think that God looks for the most talented people and calls them. Maybe you think you are not gifted enough to do anything for God. Don’t ever believe that. God isn’t looking for great talent, just complete obedience.

Trust Him.

You can’t, but God can.

Blessings to you,
Kuya Kevin

9 Comments

  1. That thought of “God using a lesser equipped Moses” just passed by my head the other day – I’m a self-confessed “shy” girl too – I don’t know why, but it developed more as an adult – at that time when insecurities became more profound – but yes – quoting from my J.I Packer daily devotion – “Our concern, therefore, should be MORE FOR HIS GLORY, NOT OUR SECURITY, for that is already taken care of. And our self distrust, while keeping us humble, must not cloud the joy by which we lean on “the Lord Protector” – our faithful covenant God. Ezekiel 34:11 – there’s no reason to be shy 🙁 – don’t just say it Huram hehe – act on your abnormalities!

  2. Great comments 🙂

  3. Thanks!
    By the way, I just heard a message that is somehow related to this, God’s love in brokenness – transcript here. Yes, only God’s love can make us whole 🙂 Nick Vujicic‘s life testified that even more – a life without limbs.

    No room now for shyness. Jesus’ sacrifice is the very reminder for us to become even bolder.

  4. hmmm, when I get shy or fearful I just remember that its all about Jesus. And when I think of what others might say, I simply remind myself that what I am going to do is an act of worship to my God. So far, things turn out smoothly. Its between me and my God.

  5. it’s funny, but i felt like i was listening to myself while reading this article. i have been a frequent MC on weddings and events that it’s ironic that although i’ve been upstage so often, i am still shy. i wouldn’t say that i have gone as far as you have. many times i know that my shyness keeps me from doing and daring more things of kingdom value and keeps me enslaved in my own imagined fear of messing up in front of a watching crowd. yet it’s also true that sometimes this lack of confidence in ourselves makes us dependent on God. we know that whatever we’ve done could’ve been just by the grace of God…

  6. “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called”

    I guess this is what God did to you Kevin. I have not heared you in any of your seminars yet (maybe one day I will), but I think you are very good in what you do. Goodluck to you and may you continue to be God’s instrument in spreading His words.

  7. A Professional Soloist in our Church once told me that even the most popular Singer … in the whole world gets the same feeling when in front of many people. That adrenalin would make us evenmore cautious and would even go on heights with the performance with such feeling … so I know that is no big deal with the Big Timers … so I know you are … and in the kingdom of God the more you are humble the more you will be promoted and it is not the prideful or boastful who gets the promotion … I salute you in view of God’s mercy, grace and glory!

  8. Hi Kuya Kevin. I never imagined that you could be frightened of speaking in a large crowd as well. =) I haven’t had the chance of seeing you speak personally (yet), but listening to your radio show, I think you must be pretty good with what you’re doing. It’s really amazing how God can make our weaknesses immaterial.

    I hope that with enough prayers and practice, I could also be a decent public speaker. (And I’ll try the audience-in-their-underwear-trick next time) 😀

  9. Your post spoke straight at me. Giving talks on purity make me crazy days before! I am even sad to admit that I don’t even look forward to it because of the way I feel coming into the talk. My fears are endless and if I let myself, I can scare myself enough to never get in front of a mic ever again. But I trust that this is on my plate for a reason and til I read your comment, I never truly understood what it was: that He sometimes chooses the weak ones so that we will lean on Him; that we aren’t required to be any good at it, just obedient. This is very inspiring and humbling, Kuya. Maraming salamat. Hope to meet you one of these days. Lora Garcia

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