Thursday, October 04, 2007

Learning in Unexpected Ways

I’m in Atlanta for a few days of continuing education. I’ve been in a session with about 11,000 ministry leaders and the sessions have been fascinating. The programming and staging and music are fresh and stirring. Some of the presenters are familiar and some are new to me. I’ve gleaned important things to think about from all.

However, the presentation I may have learned the most important lesson was from the least impressive. This nationally known speaker and author of several books that I will leave nameless was as off as I’ve ever seen a professional be.

I’ve heard him speak at least three other times on a national stage. He’s good and his content has been important for me to learn. But his presentation today was unlike anything I’ve ever seen from someone of his caliber. The speaker was distracted several times by a variety of things in the house. He forgot his main points which are featured in his latest book so you know that he knew his content. What’s more he would start to tell a story and then realize that the story was supposed to go with a point that he was going to make later. He literally did this three times and would just say jokingly, “Hey, I’m telling you this story at the wrong time. Remember this story for something that I’m going to say in a minute.”

What did I learn? I learned how to handle a bad moment. I do a good bit of public speaking. It’s important to me to speak as well as I can every opportunity I have. Part of that is driven by a desire to honor God and part of that is a desire to bless people who have graciously given their time to listen to my talk. I feel a keen sense of stewardship about my speaking.

But honestly there is still a percentage of my motivation to speak well that is driven by the fear of looking like an idiot or sounding like a fool. Today’s speaker was a living picture standing before me of one of my greatest fears. At times when preparing to speak I've had a lot of anxiety that I might have an off day like today’s speaker. And yet, there we were in the moment and he had a little self-deprecating humor, sputtered through to the end and then got off of the platform. No meltdown. No big apology. It was just an off day for an otherwise competent speaker.

I learned to be serious about my speaking preparation and delivery but not to be too serious about myself. I learned that one’s worst day of performance is not the end of the world. I learned that God can use someone’s poor performance in powerful ways in someone else’s life (mine). I actually got more out of today’s speaker’s poor delivery than I would have if it had been flawless.

That causes me to be in awe of the work of God in me (us).

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