My first sermon was when I was about eleven years old. It was a Sunday night set aside for the youth to lead the worship, and there were probably about 300 present. I was nervous. So nervous, in fact, that I spit out a 25 minute lesson in 3-4 minutes max. I still remember my dad saying he was proud, but that maybe next time I should give people time to get to the first passage before moving along to the 8th. It was good advice, of course. But how was a nervous kid supposed to slow down?
Several years later after my grandfather (a preacher himself of 40+ years) passed away, I inherited his library. In it, I came across a book by Batsell Barret Baxter called Speaking for the Master. In it, I found the answer to that old question, and it has been invaluable ever since. He wrote:
Think about your subject and your audience, not yourself. There are primarily three places where a speaker’s mind may rest while he is speaking: on his material, on the audience, or on himself. Good speakers largely forget themselves while concentrating upon their message and upon the way the audience is receiving it. It is almost always fatal to begin to think of yourself—how you are dressed, how correct your grammar is, how your gestures look, whether your speech is going over or not. “Forget self” is good advice in almost any life situation; it is doubly good in speaking.
For me, this thought was an epiphany. Nervousness was about focusing too much on self—to get over it, get over yourself. And it’s been proven true over and over again. Just as true was this statement: “Forget self’ is good advice in almost any life situation…” How much more would we get done in service to the Lord if only we mined the depths of this statement? How much less fear would there be in reaching out to new people with the Gospel? How much more would our daily life reflect the aims of God for His kingdom?