Matthew 10:19-20 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
19 But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say, 20 but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Speaking to someone without the need of preparation is the most effective way to keep them interested in what you are saying while also moving them to accept or act on what is being said. Bear in mind, speaking without rehearsing does not mean speaking without being prepared.
We may have studied a particular biblical subject that someone asks about one day. We may have covered it, having had very educational material. The logic and reasoning of the points we expected to make when explaining it one day may very well be sound. Maybe when we were reading it from the book(s), or an internet website, we read it effortlessly and with great confidence. However, now that we are in the midst of explaining the biblical truth, we find that we are stammering, searching for the right way to express ourselves, and it just is not coming across effective. In looking at the individual(s) that we are speaking with, it seems as though they are struggling to follow what is being said. Does it seem likely that we are reaching the heart of these ones?
What lies behind this failure of our being skilled at speaking without the need of preparation? It is likely because we failed to prepare correctly. One way to improve our recall of what we have read is covered by the website Brainscape. It reads, “When we read, we are using our visual pathways to form memory links. We remember the material because it was something we saw. People who have photographic memory are extraordinarily good at making these kinds of memory connections. For those of us who do not have a photographic memory, relying only on visual memory may leave us with many gaps, and so we have to find other ways to remember things. When reading aloud, we form auditory links in our memory pathways. We remember ourselves saying it out loud, and not only do we form visual links but also auditory links.” They go on, “Art Markman, Ph.D. writes in his blog in Psychology Today about the production effect, which explains exactly why reading out loud causes us to remember better. Specifically referring to a study in which learners were given a list and asked to read half of it aloud and half of it silently, the learners were able to remember the part of the list they read aloud a lot better than the part of the list they read silently. He adds that while there are memory pathways of visually seeing the words and the auditory pathways of hearing the words, there is also a memory link to the actual production of the word, hence the production effect. Especially if the word or content is different, it makes it easier to remember.”
We will actually be reading in an undertone, which is reading in a quiet or subdued tone, like muttering something, as it is barely audible. However, some things will be read aloud. While reading a book in an undertone as opposed to silently to oneself will enhance our ability to recall, but it still falls short of what we need to accomplish. What do we need to do? We need to see the information relationally, how the different points relate to one another; we need to ask questions, organizing what we are reading, so it makes sense to us. We need to highlight the most important points. We need to say it in our own words. If we do not connect with the material in such a way, there is nothing to hold the material in our memory. Moreover, if we do not fully understand what we have read, just reading it aloud to enhance our chances of remembering those most important points later will prove futile. We can explain what we do not fully understand.
When reading a chapter in a book, we will actually be reading aloud, read the title through slowly several times, thinking about we can expect will be covered. Now, move onto the first heading, read it slowly and ponder how it is going to add to what the chapter title gave us, now the next heading and the next until there are no more. Go back and read the headings as well as the paragraph(s) that go with the heading, looking for idea contained in the heading and find it in the paragraph(s). Now, express those thoughts aloud as though you were trying to explain them to another.
We may be reading a book that has many chapters that are interconnected as to the book but are individually subject matters that may come up when talking with others. Maybe some of the chapters run like this, Understanding Christianity, Understanding Faith, Revelation, Inspiration, Inerrancy, and Canonicity, How to Interpret the Bible, and the like. These chapters are relational, but someone might ask us one day, “what exactly is inerrancy of Scripture, my pastor says the only things that are without error are the salvation doctrines, and that the Bible can have errors when it touches on geography, science, history and so on?” When we read those chapters, we would have read the chapters and headings aloud, pondering as we read the paragraph(s) that go with the headings, what answer is what the author meant by his heading, highlighting those points. As we read the paragraphs, we do so in an undertone, meditatively.
Now, turn those headings into questions and answer the questions aloud as though you were explaining it to someone. In our chapter Inerrancy and Canonicity, we find our first heading is The Inerrancy of the Bible, followed by three paragraphs. Now, make it a question, “what does inerrancy of the Bible mean?” Read the paragraphs, highlighting the answer, but with main words and phrases only. Now, ask the question again and give the answer aloud without looking at the book. Next, we find a subheading, The Bible Teaches Inerrancy, followed by two paragraphs, which we make into the question, “How the does the Bible teach inerrancy?” Again, read the paragraphs, highlighting the answer, but with main words and phrases only. Now, ask the question again and give the answer aloud without looking at the book. Our next subheading is Jesus Testified to Biblical Inerrancy, followed by four paragraphs, which we make into the question, “how did Jesus testify to biblical inerrancy?” Then, follow the same process. Our next subheading is, The Apostles Believed in Inerrancy, followed by three paragraphs, which we make into the question, “What makes us conclude that the apostle believed in inerrancy?” Again, follow the same process. The last subheading before our next heading is The Character of God Demands Inerrancy, followed by two paragraphs, which we make into the question “How does the character of God demand inerrancy?” Our next heading is The Reliability of the Scriptures, which becomes “How can we know the Scriptures are reliable?” Can we imagine how much more we might understand and retain if we followed this process through an entire chapter?
Now, there is more that needs to be done before we can say that we have fully dealt with this chapter, Inerrancy, and Canonicity. We need to take each heading and subheading and one at a time, share this with Christian family and friends. Maybe before a Christian meeting, we pull a member aside and say, “you know I was reading on inerrancy the other day and I came across the fact that The Bible Teaches Inerrancy,” and then tell the person what we learned. After the meeting, find another member and do the same. We will see that each time we share it, we are expressing it more and more in our words, and we are stammering less in our delivery. Thus, when someone asks us, “how can you say the Bible teaches inerrancy?” We will be skilled at speaking without the need of preparation.
Yes, speaking unrehearsed has possible challenges. One is that we might become too wordy, expounding too much, when we are witnessing to others. We may just insert too many points in our explanation, and the person is put off by our long-windedness. We can avoid this by knowing our most important points and reflecting on the situation at hand. If the individual asked us the question, we could use more of our points than if we started talking to him. So, say we are asked, “Did Jesus believe in biblical inerrancy?” Recall that we had four paragraphs, with seven verses, and multiple points that prove he did believe in inerrancy. Since the person asked us, we can likely share most of that. However, if we initially engaged this person in a conversation, and he asked this question, we could take the most important points and use them, closing with “more points could be made, but I want to respect your time.” Who knows, he may say that he has the time.
Another danger is that eventually, we will get better and better at speaking without the need of preparation, which may result in overconfidence. Eventually, we may not follow the above steps when studying, as we had before, and so, our responses become less and less skillful. Therefore, we must remain humble and show appreciation for the God of the Bible, and it is his message that we are sharing. Therefore, we need to continuous approach our personal study and preparation for our Christian meetings prayerfully and take the time to prepare well. (Isa. 30:20; Rom. 12:6-8) For those that have not gained experience at speaking unrehearsed, do not be put off by attempts that do not turn out as well as we may have hoped. Simply keep preparing well, and look to God for guidance.
What if we are one of those people, who constantly worry about how to word things? Yes, it is true, we are not going to have the same level of wording and grammar and syntax as the chapter in a book, but we must remember that our conversational style with make up the difference. People will be more receptive to our explanations that are easy to understand and are in simple sentences. Moreover, if we study well, the right words will come to us in the end. It should be noted that the more we read, study and communicate, the more our vocabulary will grow as well. However, we do not want to use a conversational style that is high-sounding, just to try to impress others, but rather use good speech that we use in our everyday conversations.
Over time, we will notice that we have acquired just a few main points for many different doctrinal beliefs, as well as a Scripture or two for each belief. We will be able to talk share and defend such beliefs as inerrancy, providence, foreknowledge, the length of the creative days, what the image of God means, atonement, salvation, sanctification, justification, eternal security, the biblical view of baptism, the gifts of the first century, and so on. In time, we will find that these are easily referenced from our long-term memory. In the beginning, if our Bible has a concordance of Bible words or even a small Bible dictionary at the end, we can highlight these terms and there will usually be Scriptures with them. We may even write brief notes about context, historical setting or original language words. The more you discuss a belief, the deeper it is embedded in our memory and the more we will attain the ability to speak about it unrehearsed.
Once we have garnered the ability to speak from our memory and can now effectively communicate with others, there is another successful tool in producing an impact. At the beginning of each belief, we might have what I call an impact statement, which is the best and most dramatic evidence that we have, which is to be delivered from a couple memorized sentences for effect. Then, in the end, we have another impact statement, or simply reiterate the one from the beginning. Lastly, if we are using Scriptures and we have our Bible with us, it is best to open it up and have them read from it as we point to the text under consideration, having a significant effect.
In many different parts of a Christian’s life, he may be called on to explain his beliefs without an opportunity to prepare. Maybe we are out evangelizing in our community, and someone raises an objection. For example, “I believe in evolution.” On the other hand, maybe we are at a family get together, and a family member asks a Bible question. Then, again, we might be at work, and a coworker raises an objection or our child is at school, and a classmate or a teacher criticizes our beliefs. In many parts of the world, it might even be a government official asking us to explain our beliefs. While this is not the case in the United States of America yet, it is heading that way. In this, we refer to a text we used in the previous chapter and will likely mention yet again. Peter urged us, to “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. – 1 Peter 3:15.
Early on Peter and John were taken before the Jewish Sanhedrin, which is similar to our Supreme Court here in the United States. The court charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. At Acts 4:19-20, they offered a clear and concise statement. Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” When arrested for doing what they were ordered not to do, they were miraculously freed, only to be apprehended doing the same thing yet again, witnessing about Jesus. They were brought and sat before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:27-29) Sometime later, Stephen too was brought before the same court on false charges. We can read his quite lengthy impromptu speech at Acts 7:2-53. In this case, Stephen built a sequential historical case against his accusers, showing centuries of rebellion by the Israelite nation. He concluded his speech by demonstrating that the Sanhedrin was, in fact, evidencing the same rebellious spirit as they had the Son of God executed.
Whether it is an unbeliever in our evangelism work, a family member at a gather, a schoolmate, a coworker, or even a governmental official, how can we make our impromptu explanations effective? We can collect our thoughts by offering God a silent prayer. (Neh. 2:4) Next, we need to think of a mental outline that will explain whatever is being asked of us. We can consider two or three points that need to be in our explanation and the order they should be presented. Then, come up with at least one Scripture per point if possible. Lastly, pause before beginning, as we want to open “with gentleness and respect,” so that the one who asked the question will be willing to listen. Then start talking.
If we are under pressure, we should remember Jesus words to his apostles, “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father is speaking through you.” Mind you; the context is Jesus promising his apostles miraculous supernatural “word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit.” We can see from the above Scriptures and the whole of the book of Acts that this was the case. However, we should not expect this miraculous gift, as it was something promised to the apostle and the early church. Nevertheless, if we are regularly having a personal study at home, preparing for the Christian meetings, having a regular sharing in commenting at the Bible study, as well as sharing and defending our faith, our mind will be inundated with Scriptures that were penned as men were moved along by the Holy Spirit.
When preparing for our next church Bible study, highlight key phrases that will allow us to answer in our own words instead of reading from the material. Before the night of the meeting, we need to tell at least two people what we learned in those few paragraphs, by simply saying we want to share something new we have learned, and delving into the explanation.
 It is not the Holy Spirit miraculously taking over us so that we are able to give the perfect answer. Rather, the Word of God was inspired, where the Holy Spirit moved along men, i.e., the Bible is of the Holy Spirit. If we fail to be studious in the Word of God and have nothing in our head, what can we draw on when it comes time to speak with someone?
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