Mark Finley is the Assistant to the President of the General Conference.

During my senior year in college each theology student was required to give Bible studies to someone in the nearby community. Diligently I searched for my interest. Finally I discovered a woman who was willing to endure my Bible studies.

Often during the studies I was unable to answer the lady's questions. And often I sat red-faced in embarrassment because I had forgotten what I was to say next. Regularly I stayed too long. Although I was sincere, my best efforts were awfully feeble.


As I looked back on that Bible study through the years, it seemed a great disaster. I wondered whether God had allowed me to train with somebody He knew wouldn't respond. What poor theology! Ten years later I returned to South Lancaster, Massachusetts and Atlantic Union College to hold an evangelistic series. Who was in the audience but the woman with whom I had studied ten years before! During that ten years the seed of the Word of God had been growing. As Hebrews states it so magnificently, "The Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing asunder even to the joints and marrow of the heart" (Heb. 4:12). Although my words were powerless, feeble, and impotent, God's Word, through the power of the Spirit, did what my words could never have accomplished. In spite of my failure there was still power in God's Word to draw this woman back. God's Spirit touched her life. Through His powerful influence a new creation emerged. Her heart and life were changed. She was among the first baptized in that evangelistic meeting.

I am reassured by the fact that God's Word continually works in men and women's hearts in spite of our feebleness. I am continually encouraged by God's promise in the book of Isaiah, "For as the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven and returneth not thither but watereth the earth and maketh it bring forth . . . , so shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth. It shall not return unto Me void but it shall accomplish that which I please" (Isa. 55:10, 11)

Ellen G. White states it succinctly: "The creative energy that called the worlds into existence is in the Word of God. This Word imparts power. It begets life. Every command is a promise. Accepted by the will, received into the soul it brings with it the life of the Infinite One. It transforms the nature and recreates the soul in the image of God" (Education, p. 126).

At times you may feel inadequate in presenting God's Word. Nervousness or anxiety may overwhelm you, and you may question your competency. I've got good news for you. As you present the Word of God, the same Spirit that prompted the writers of old to pen the Scriptures will move on the hearts of the men and women to help them to understand its teachings. If you will consciously depend on Him, He will aid your weakness.

Communicating the Word of God differs from any other form of communication. When a salesman makes a presentation he uses human sales skills to reach the mind. When a TV commentator broadcasts to the masses, he uses men's media marketing methods to communicate his concepts. When a teacher teaches her students American history, math, or science, she communicates with principles of logic. But when a teacher of God's Word stands before a congregation, that teacher is a vehicle through which the Holy Spirit communicates divine concepts to the mind.

It is true that the human element plays a major part in influencing the listener's acceptance or rejection of truth, and so proper teaching techniques are important. Nevertheless, without the Spirit of God, teaching techniques are powerless to influence the thoughts of men and women for eternity. They may inform the mind but they cannot convert the heart.

Teaching techniques that we will discuss here are tools. Tools do not do the work. A hammer, a saw, a screwdriver merely facilitates the accomplishment of the task. They must be used by people who know how to use them.

The teaching techniques are powerful. I have seen them work in hundreds of seminars on thousands of minds. They blend concepts from the Bible, the writings of Ellen G. White, and modern psychology. If you will follow them, they will help you to be an effective communicator. They will ensure that your listeners receive and understand the message you're attempting to communicate.


Most students of human behaviour believe that two major factors influence learning. In psychological terms they are called ethos and logos. Ethos has to do with the speaker. Logos has to do with the message. Whether or not individuals will accept truth depends on both how feel about you and how clearly you reveal truth.

In regard to ethos, the bottom line is this: If people don't accept you, no matter how logical and true your message is, they won't accept it. How do you come across? Are you pious and sanctimonious or caring and concerned? Do you give the impression that you think you have all the answers? That you consider yourself intelligent and your audience ignorant? Do you come across as arrogant and self-assured or as one who is genuinely concerned about imparting information that will be helpful to the audience?

In a recent article on Christian persuasion, Tim Timmons, pastor of the Southcoast Community Church in Irving, California, asserts that your audience asks three questions as you get up to speak. The first is, "Can I trust you? Are you basically honest? Are you sincere and genuine?"(Leadership, Fall, 1985, p. 93).

In the light of such events as Watergate, Irangate, and the PTL scandal, a growing number of people are suspicious of authority figures. So this basic question of trust is paramount in the minds of many.

Ellen G. White wrote, "As the people looked upon Jesus, they saw a face in which divine compassion was blended with conscious power. He seemed to be surrounded with an atmosphere of spiritual life. While His manners were gentle and unassuming, He impressed men with a sense of power that was hidden, yet could not be wholly concealed. . . . Christ's teaching had a freshness and a power such as men had never before known. Even His enemies were forced to confess, 'Never man spake like this Man.'" (Ministry of Healing, pp. 51, 52). Early in your presentation one of your goals should be to establish yourself with your listeners as a spiritual man or woman. It will help to prepare their minds to receive your message.

According to Timmons, the second question your audience is asking when you get up to speak is, "Does this person care for me?" If you come across as a genuinely caring person rather than a dogmatic, bigoted individual, they will be much more willing to learn from you. This makes it important that you learn the names of each person in your class, that you spend time before and after class getting acquainted with your class members.

Talk to people, making such comments as "John, I'm so glad to see you, but I notice that you're here alone. Let your wife know that we've missed her" or "Mary, it's so good to see you again. I'm happy that you've brought your daughter with you." Or "Joan, we missed you last week. I heard that you were sick and I want you to know that we've been praying for you."

Learning something about the individual, discovering little details regarding their family, understanding something about their work, knowing about their interests and hobbies, communicating to them a personal concern and interest will break down the walls of prejudice and open their minds to receiving the message that you're attempting to communicate.


The third question Timmons says arises within the minds of the listeners is "Does the speaker know what he's talking about? Does he know his subject?" Here is where you may feel a little intimidated. You may think, "What if I lose my place during the presentation? What if I become confused? How can I overcome my anxiety and nervousness? How can I keep from being a hindrance to the acceptance of God's truth?"

Nothing will substitute for good preparation. God is so desirous of communicating truth to hearts and minds that He will attempt to use us to reach people whether or not we are well prepared. But lack of preparation limits the work He can do through us.

When I was a ministerial student, I was extremely nervous each time I got up to preach. Once when I gave a chapel talk at Atlantic Union College, I was so nervous that my stomach was in knots. My knees shook, my voice cracked, my face turned red, and beads of sweat stood out on my forehead and poured down my cheeks. I wondered whether I would get through my talk. Not only was I glad when it was over but everybody else was too! I determined that I had to do something to feel more at ease in the pulpit.

The girl I was dating at the time, Ernestine, who has now become my wife, worked in the college gymnasium. At the side of the gymnasium there was a small room where basketballs were stored. Ernestine agreed to open this room for me so I could practice my sermons. Among the basketballs I preached and preached and preached. If it were possible, hundreds of basketballs would have been converted! Preaching in that storage room gave me confidence and developed my delivery.

Years later I began encouraging my wife to conduct a Daniel seminar. Initially she was frightened at the thought, but agreed to give it a try. During the next two weeks she listened to my tapes on Daniel over and over again. Evenings she sat in bed studying the Daniel lecture notes. One evening when I came home, she said, "Mark, I need to go over this material with you." A willing prospect, I sat and listened as she presented the material. She reviewed it again and again.

The first day of her seminar she had an air of confidence. This was not the first time she had given that material. She had shared it with the windows, the doors, and the draperies. Only as you're willing to put some time into careful study will your sermon be as successful as you desire it to be.

Mark Finley is the speaker for It Is Written an international telecast program. He writes from Thousand Oaks, California.