Messing With An Audience’s Mind . . . .

priviledge 1  Seeing Public Speaking As A Privilege


There are “mistakes” which a speaker can make which have lasting and improper consequences.  Because the mind readily retains images, including verbally created pictures, a speaker can create an image which so sticks that it is difficult to nigh impossible to shake.

We all know that to be the case.  All of us have had someone say something which “mentally sticks” and plagues the mind.  It doesn’t just happen in childhood.  It can and does happen during any stage of life.  Have you ever said, “I can’t look at that!  I’ll have nightmares!”  Or, “That is a terrible thing to say — especially in this setting!”

Being a public speaker, addressing all kinds of individuals, there is a caution we ought to feel when we speak.  Especially, when we purposefully call up an image which we go into with reservations.  Doing that has both risks and responsibilities!

As someone has said, it is like pointing out a portion of an oil painting and saying, “That cloud in the background looks like a dog!”  From that moment forward, it will be that cloud formation — which looks like a dog — which draws the art lover’s attention away from the beauty of the whole to what is not only slight but what is not focal.

I Keep Seeing The “Dog”!

Likewise, when this is done while preaching and teaching a particular biblical passage, the danger is that every time that passage is referenced, preached, or mentioned, that image, picture, allusion, or illustration will come to mind.  Obviously, that is the desired aim of any speaker.  Nevertheless, when a speaker calls up an image which is . . . .

  • crude
  • noxious
  • misguided
  • inaccurate
  • “inappropriate” (I know – to  some — “What is appropriate?”)
  • “salty”
  • theological bizarre
  • blustering

. . . . it has the real potential of mentally sticking and messing up the audience’s mind.


When an audience makes a choice to come and listen to a speaker . . .

the speaker has an ethical obligation to be sensitive to who is there and to care about who is there.

the speaker has a moral responsibility to be cautious, discerning, and circumspect when choosing and using illustrations, stories, imagery, and analogies.

the speaker has an academic obligation to be theologically solid and reject the draw of being novel.


A speaker can misuse the privilege trustingly given him/her by that audience.  We have seen that done when . . . .

a speaker is insensitive to the various age groups of the children present and addresses adult topics that even adults are not sure is appropriate

a speaker uses a story involving another individual, no less without permission, which establishes a perception of that person which is now “a dog cloud.”

a preacher calls up a story which references bodily functions, sexual activity, or uses crude, edgy or coarse details

a teacher-preacher pushes a bizarre-to-absurd understanding or interpretation of a passage, which pulls the mind off of the beauty of what that passage is actually teaching

a preacher uses profanity — unforgettable vocabulary — for its shock value, and that so grabs the mind’s sensitivities that the remaining message is lost

. . . . at best — the speaker has used and/or abused his audience and the unique privilege he has been given by that audience.


. . . . at worse — the teacher-preacher has violated the sacredness of his privileged position (and, as Mac Arthur states — should step down or be voted out of the pulpit ministry by the congregation).

When an audience gives you their time and attention, it is a privilege which has been given to you.  There are many other speakers an audience could have chosen to listen to, other than you — even in a local church setting.

Don’t abuse that privilege and opportunity!

Be mindful of images you callup
Be considerate of their time
Respect the fact that they might not always agree
Understand, that you are probably not as good as you think you are
Be careful about using others (alive or dead) as an illustration
Be the man of God you say you are — in the words you use!


* “Preach Dirty To Me” —

Some even propound that Martin Luther used crude language! — “Luther was the original cussing pastor.” 

While John MacArthur has no difficulty in rebuking Mark Driscoll, John Piper was unwilling to agree with John Mac Arthur approach!

Note: What is happening among the SBC these days reflects a generation of an unwillingness to rebuke and correct some of the most prominent and powerful personalities.  Again, the SBC steps reflect the same steps taken with Driscoll — typically too little and/or too late — finally having to face the wrongness of what has been ignored or justified far too long!

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