EACH week, most congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses arrange for a public discourse on a Scriptural subject. If you are an elder or a ministerial servant, do you give evidence of being an effective public speaker, a teacher? If so, you may be invited to give a public talk. The Theocratic Ministry School has helped tens of thousands of brothers to qualify for this privilege of service. When assigned to give a public talk, where should you begin?
Study the Outline
Before you do any research, read the outline and meditate on it until you get the sense of it. Fix in mind the theme, which is the title of the discourse. What is it that you are to teach your audience? What is your objective?
Become familiar with the main headings. Analyze those main points. How does each one tie in with the theme? Under each main point, a number of subpoints are listed. Elements that support the subpoints are listed beneath these. Consider how each section of the outline builds on the preceding one, leads into the next, and helps to accomplish the objective of the talk. Once you understand the theme, the objective of the talk, and how the main points accomplish that purpose, then you are ready to begin developing the material.
At first you may find it helpful to think of your discourse as four or five short talks, each with a main point. Prepare these one at a time.
The outline provided is a preparation tool. It is not meant to serve as the notes from which you give your talk. It is like a skeleton. You will need to put some flesh on it, as it were, give it a heart and breathe life into it.
Use of Scriptures
Jesus Christ and his disciples built their teaching on the Scriptures. (Luke 4:16-21; 24:27; Acts 17:2, 3) You can do the same. The Scriptures should be the basis of your talk. Rather than simply explaining and applying statements made in the outline provided, discern how those statements are supported by the Scriptures, and then teach from the Scriptures.
As you prepare your talk, examine each verse cited in the outline. Take note of the context. Some texts may simply provide helpful background. Not all of them need to be read or commented on during your delivery. Select those that are best for your audience. If you concentrate on the scriptures cited in the printed outline, you will probably not need to use additional Scripture references.
The success of your talk depends, not on the number of scriptures used, but on the quality of the teaching. When introducing scriptures, show why they are being used. Allow time to apply them. After you read a scripture, keep your Bible open as you discuss the text. Your audience will likely do the same. How can you stir the interest of your audience and help them to benefit more fully from God’s Word? (Neh. 8:8, 12) You can do so by explanation, illustration, and application.
Explanation. When preparing to explain a key text, ask yourself: ‘What does it mean? Why am I using it in my talk? What might those in the audience be asking themselves about this verse?’ You may need to analyze the context, the background, the setting, the force of the words, the intent of the inspired writer. This requires research. You will find an abundance of valuable information in the publications provided by “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45-47) Do not try to explain everything about the verse, but explain why you had your audience read it in connection with the point being discussed.
Illustration. The purpose of illustrations is to take your audience to a deeper level of understanding or to help them remember a point or principle you have discussed. Illustrations help people take what you have told them and relate it to something they already know. This is what Jesus did when he gave his famous Sermon on the Mount. “Birds of heaven,” “lilies of the field,” a “narrow gate,” a “house upon the rock-mass,” and many such expressions made his teaching emphatic, clear, and unforgettable.—Matt., chaps. 5–7.
Application. Explaining and illustrating a scripture will impart knowledge, but applying that knowledge is what brings results. True, it is the responsibility of those in your audience to act on the Bible’s message, but you can help them discern what needs to be done. Once you are confident that your audience understands the verse under discussion and sees its relevance to the point being made, take time to show them its impact on belief and conduct. Highlight the benefits of relinquishing wrong ideas or conduct that is inconsistent with the truth under discussion.
As you think about how to apply scriptures, remember that the people making up your audience come from many backgrounds and face a wide range of circumstances. There may be newly interested ones, youths, older ones, and those struggling with a variety of personal problems. Make your talk practical and true to life. Avoid offering counsel that sounds as if you have only a few individuals in mind.
The Speaker’s Decisions
Some decisions regarding your discourse have already been made for you. The main points are clearly indicated, and the amount of time you should devote to the discussion of each main heading is clearly shown. Other decisions are yours to make. You may choose to spend more time on certain subpoints and less on others. Do not assume that you must cover every subpoint to the same degree. That may cause you to rush through material and overwhelm your audience. How can you determine which to develop more fully and which to mention only briefly, or in passing? Ask yourself: ‘Which points will help me to convey the talk’s central idea? Which ones afford the greatest potential for benefiting my audience? Will omitting a certain cited scripture and related point weaken the lineup of evidence that is being presented?’
Studiously avoid injecting speculation or personal opinion. Even God’s Son, Jesus Christ, avoided speaking of ‘his own originality.’ (John 14:10) Appreciate that the reason why people come to the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses is to hear the Bible discussed. If you have come to be regarded as a fine speaker, likely it is because you make it a practice to draw attention, not to yourself, but to God’s Word. For this, your talks are appreciated.—Phil. 1:10, 11.
Having turned a simple outline into a meaty explanation of Scripture, you now need to rehearse your talk. It is beneficial to do so aloud. The important thing is to be sure that you have all the points well in mind. You must be able to put your heart into your delivery, breathe life into the material, and give an enthusiastic presentation of the truth. Before delivering your talk, ask yourself: ‘What am I hoping to accomplish? Do the main points stand out? Have I really made the Scriptures the basis of my talk? Does each main point lead naturally into the next? Does the talk build appreciation for Jehovah and his provisions? Does the conclusion relate directly to the theme, show the audience what to do, and motivate them to do it?’ If you can answer yes to these questions, then you are in a position to ‘do good with knowledge,’ for the benefit of the congregation and to the praise of Jehovah!—Prov. 15:2.