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Where do you write your evangelistic talks?

Helen Thorne | 16 Apr 2013

It was an innocent question from a friend who had been asked to do their first talk. They honestly had no idea how to go about the process and were looking for some hints. But it was a question that got me thinking ... "Where do you write your evangelistic talks?"

Up until that day, the answer would have been an unswerving "in my study". That's where I write all my talks and Bible studies. It makes sense. That's where my books are. It's quiet there. That's where the filing cabinet which contains all my previous talks lives. Why wouldn't I write in there?

But as I reflected on his question, I started to ask myself whether that was the best place to write. It's certainly the best place for me to do my exegesis - understanding a Bible passage needs a prayerful environment with easy access to decent commentaries in my experience. Listening to God is important and distractions should be kept to a minimum. But is it really the best place to put the final words on paper?

So I tried an experiment. The next talk I had to give, I prepared in three parts. The first part - the work on the passage - took place at my desk. The second part - the initial writing - took place in my local coffee shop. The third part - the refining - happened in the park, well used by dog-walkers and young mums encouraging their children to let off steam. The result? A much sharper and more contextualised talk.

Why? I think because it was put together while surrounded by the sorts of people I was trying to reach. By listening to the kinds of conversations you can't help but overhear in the coffee shop or playground, by watching the sports programmes I never normally engage with and by simply being with people and enjoying their presence, I was far more focused on the lost, their lives and their priorities.

It's not that I needed to be introduced to non-Christians, there are plenty of unbelievers in my friendship circles. But when I write my talks they aren't in the room. They are distanced from my thinking. Putting them right there - in my line of sight - forced me to ask myself the questions: "Would that phrase be understood?", "Does that illustration really resonate with where they are?", "Does my phrasing show the depth of love that I want to convey" and "Am I really meeting them where they're at?".

I'm still exploring this issue. Lots of pondering yet to do. And as part of that I thought I'd ask the question, "Where do you write your evangelistic talks - and why there?". Whether you are in paid ministry or unpaid; whether your talks are for mixed groups of adults, men, women, teens or children at holiday clubs; whether you're experienced or new to all this, it would be great to hear your views...


1:05 PM BST on April 16th
You've started a good practice. To write your talks/sermons with your audience in mine.

I've done similar - picture specific friends of mine as if they came to hear me.

Sometimes, I'll talk about the concepts with them and incorporate some of their questions and feedback to sharpen my explanations.

I once asked my barber for a sermon illustration - I mentioned that I was giving a talk and the point was X and looking for a good illustration of X.



1:14 PM BST on April 16th
Great blog, Helen. Like you, my initial prep is somewhere quiet, just me and a Bible. But my mind is at its clearest when I'm walking, so I then find somewhere to walk while I try and hone the clarity of the talk, be that pacing round the warehouse at work or going for a walk in the park.

My final stage is deliberately somewhere where I can't look at my notes - doing the washing up, in the shower… If I can tell myself the talk or training session without notes, that means it's clear and well structured. If I can't, it needs more work.

Steve McCoy

8:57 AM BST on April 19th
Ajith Fernando in his book Jesus Driven Ministry talks about how he had to spend 6 hours in a police station working for the release of volunteers in the ministry he works for who were falsely arrested after a terrorist attack in his country. He worked on studies in Galatians there and said after, "I realized that this might be a better place to prepare my Bible lessons than my study at home, for here before me were some of the problems that the gospel addresses. It was a great context for theologizing." Sounds right up the same alley as this post.

Helen Thorne

Helen Thorne is Director of Training and Resources at Biblical Counselling UK. She formerly worked with the London City Mission and has written Hope in an Anxious World, Purity Is Possible, Walking with Domestic Abuse Sufferers and 5 Things to Pray for Your City. She attends Dundonald Church in Raynes Park, London.