Robert notes that, “To some degree I get more nervous now than I did when I began. At the beginning I was self confident, I was bold, and I felt God was lucky to have me in His camp. I was going to change the world. But after 45 years, I’ve realised that it is much more about Him than it is about me. And the weight of preaching and the weight of responsibility have grown and not lessened. So outside of Him, I get very nervous.”
What do you do when you get nervous? How do you deal with nerves?
Here are some of Robert’s strategies that he’s learned along the journey:
1. Start with personal story
When you’re nervous, you often forget points, facts, and situations, but what we don’t forget is our personal story. That’s why, if you’ve heard Robert preaching, he’ll often start with a date and a place where something significant happened in his life.
As you start to share, your nerves dissipate and you start remembering the rest of those things that you want to say.
Some people just assume that it’s all going to go right on a night, so to speak; that they are going to remember everything.
In Robert’s experience, the more he is asked to preach, the more he practises. And the more practice he does, the more spontaneous he can become.
3. Speak to yourself
Robert has a mantra as he gets up onto a platform. He says to himself, “I didn’t come up with this idea. This isn’t my idea, but this is God’s idea. I have an anointing from the Holy One. God’s word is in my mouth. And I love these people.”
There’s an old adage that “we are successes or failures depending on whether we speak to ourselves or listen to ourselves”.
Many of us listen to ourselves and get into trouble, whereas we should speak to ourselves instead. Speak about what God is going to do in and through you during your message.
4. Practice relaxation
One of the best ways to do this is through relaxed breathing. Before Robert preaches, he is purposefully relaxing his body and his mind so that he can preach better.
The more relaxed you are, the more the Holy Spirit can work; the more tense you are, the more you will get in the way.
5. Run to the pulpit
Here’s a strange one. So why run to the pulpit?
Well, we have adrenaline in our body, which is our fight or flight response. We’ve got a choice when adrenaline / nerves go through our body— should we run away from the problem, or should we run to the problem? Fight or flight?
Choose to run to the problem rather than away from it. The adrenaline is saying “leave”, but by running to the platform you are choosing to take control over your nerves.
6. Just preach
Believe that God has called you to do this. Believe that you have truth within you. Believe that you’re going to be able to speak what God asks you to speak. Believe God’s word is in your mouth.
Robert has a simple adage – “fire overcomes fear.” In Jeremiah 20:9, it says “The word of God is in me like a fire, I try to hold it in, but I can’t hold it in, it comes out.”
If you have passion for your subject, if you have fire, if you have an enthusiasm for what you’re saying, then it doesn’t matter what you are fearful of; the fire will win. Consider how a mother will step over a snake— even though she is terrified— to reach her child.
As a preacher, step over fear in order to touch an audience. Even Paul said, “I speak with fear and trembling”, therefore, being nervous is no bad thing as it makes us rely on God!
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