Speaking Skill| Addressing a Difficult Audience from a Neutral Position
I remember this house church leader inviting me to speak. I had just finished my first book on grace and looked forward to sharing it with people. So, I accepted the invitation and looked forward to meeting her members and imparting to them what God had given me. Nothing led me to believe I would be speaking to a difficult audience, or need some speaking skill to handle them.
For the first few weeks things went well. Then, it happened. God had me speak about something I did not include in the book. Excited, the night started out wonderful. People shared how they loved the teaching. One person told me how she used the book as a daily devotional. So, you can imagine, I felt safe with these people and could not wait to reveal what God had placed on my heart. If you would asked me what type of audience they were, I would not have classified them as a difficult audience. But seeing is not always believing.
Handling a Difficult Audience Takes a Certain Speaking Skill
Before I continue, you need to know I was not aware of any denominational controversies pertaining to God’s Word. God saved me in 1986. What I’m about to tell you took place in 1995. So, being a young believer, as far as years in the faith, I thought my message on our security in Christ was rock solid. How could anyone disagree with it? Well, I was about to find out what happens when you share a controversial issue with a difficult audience.
As I delivered the message to this difficult audience on the subject of our eternal security and how God pardoned our sins and paid the penalty for us, two men jumped from their chairs and stood about an arm’s length from me. As they stood there, they told me I had no right to teach this. I could not believe what I was experiencing. Yet, right in front of me stood two men, one to my right and the other to my left. It was almost a Calvary moment as it reminded me of Christ and the two thieves, both screaming in His ears until one believed in Christ, and witnessed to the other.
Anyway, after the yelling started, I stopped teaching and addressed their issues regarding eternal salvation. While talking, the man standing to my left changed his mind just as the thief did. Instead of disagreeing with me, the man said, “If this is true, I want it.”
After we called it a night, I asked the home leader what happened. She told me this was a sore subject with them, so they had agreed to avoid it. I told her I did not know this. As I prayed over it the next morning, the Lord told me to tell her if they did not settle this issue, the home church would cease to exist. After several years in operation, it folded a few months later.
Developing a Speaking Skill to Neutralize a Difficult Audience
I learned a great deal from this experience about speaking to a difficult audience. So I developed a neutral position, speaking skill to handle them. When teaching a controversial topic such as eternal security, you start by informing the pastor or home leader about your subject ahead of time. It is important to have their permission before you teach it. After all, you do not want to blindside the pastor or house leader. Next, you want to couch your opening statement in such a way as to acknowledge the controversy, and then explain why you came to believe the way you do. Starting with a neutral position disarms your audience because you are not coming across as someone who wants to change their minds. No, you sound neutral by sharing how you came to believe the way you do. This is a very important step to take when speaking to a difficult audience.
An Example of Sharing a Controversial Issue
In developing your speaking skill to present a controversial issue such as “Eternal Security” create a neutral opening to keep your audience calm and engaged.
Next, present Eternal Security by sharing some of the legal issues involved.
- We received a pardon for our sin.
- God justified us and pronounced us not guilty under the law.
- How the law no longer has jurisdiction over us.
- To charge us a second time would mean double-jeopardy since Christ already paid the price.
What happened to us on the inside makes reversing the process impossible (Ezekiel 36:25-26).
- God removed our stony, rebellious heart and gave us a new heart of flesh.
- He gave us a new Spirit who will remain with us forever (John 14:16).
- God seated us with Him, in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6-7).
- He promised that all who believe in Him will not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16-17).
- God draws us to Christ. Jesus cannot lose any the Father gives Him otherwise He would fail to carry out His Father’s will. Something He cannot do. (John 6:38-40).
Next, Share your Story about How You came to Believe in Eternal Security.
You begin your teaching by knowing your audience. Then, present your topic from a neutral position. Share what truths established this truth in you. Finally, tell your story about how you once held one position, but as you continued to study the Word, you began to see it from a different perspective. Close by saying, “No matter if you agree or not, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share this with you. I am honored to have had this opportunity. I know this can be a touchy subject, so thank you for your interest and the courtesy you showed this speaker.”