We take it for granted, “Actions speak louder than words.” This aphorism is true in public speaking too. That is, what we do while we are speaking is as important as the actual words we say, perhaps even more important . The force and impact of pointed gospel arrows greatly depend upon non-verbal communication as well as verbal. A message on the joy of the Lord will not be received well if read in a monotone with little eye contact and gloomy facial expression. You can picture it; the body language of the teacher or preacher undermines the content of the gospel message.
Another similar scene is often repeated. The teacher or preacher stands before the class or congregation and announces, “I have a very important and consequential teaching for you this morning.” While making the announcement, he assumes a nonchalant casual relaxed posture rocking back on his heels with both hands in his pant pockets. What the class or congregation sees immediately undercuts the content of the announcement. Actions speak louder than words. The non-verbal body language wins out.
There is a primary and simple lesson here. We need to learn to speak with our whole body. If you put yourself into a gospel message, it ought to show. It ought to show in the stance you take before a class or congregation. It ought to show in the tone and volume of your voice. It ought to show in your facial expression. It ought to show in the movement of your arms and the gestures of your hands. Each of these actions carries a language of its own.
For example, when inviting folks to come to Christ, you don’t point at them with an accusing index finger. Rather, you invite the people to come with outstretched arms and open hands, palms up, using a beckoning motion. Volume is important. There are times to raise volume. But take care. Volume alone can be interpreted by people as shouting at them. Issue the invitation with a soft voice. Again, speak using your whole body. Lean into the class or congregation. Reach for the people. In using your voice, breath deeply. Speak from the gut rather than from the throat or head. The more air you push, the greater your projection will be, even with a soft voice. At the same time, scan the class or congregation. Draw people in by briefly making eye contact with them. However, don’t make people uncomfortable by maintaining eye contact for too long.
All of the above presupposes a solid stance behind the podium. Take this stance with feet spread shoulder-width leaning forward slightly on your toes giving you the ability to easily move and use your body as you speak. Rather than leaning on or grasping the podium, stand back slightly to give yourself room to move.
In light of the above comments, listen to Isaiah 55:1. Isaiah has already presented redemption and its blessings in chapters 53-54. Now, on God’s behalf, he issues an invitation. “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost.” E. J. Young, “The introductory particle (hoi) is mainly an attention-getting device” (The Book of Isaiah, 3:374). So much for not using such rhetorical devices in gospel preaching. Several metaphors signify gospel blessing, water, wine, and milk. Grace is emphasized in the words “without money, without cost.” Although there is a series of imperatives, this series amounts to a plea. The rhetorical question of verse 2 emphasizes this fact. “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy?”
Now, listen to the prophet’s compassionate call to the people. Watch him make this call with heartfelt urgency. Three times he issues the invitation. “Come, come, come!” Then, throwing his hands in the air, with a questioning look and a shake of his head in quandary, he asks, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread?” Why? Words in context carry cognitive baggage and emotional weight. They have an evocative force. You cannot read Christ’s quotation of Psalm 22:1 and not realize this is the case, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” So it is with Isaiah’s gospel invitation.
Body language and non-verbal communication play a natural role in effective gospel proclamation. The presentation of God’s truth derived from a Scripture text does not stand alone. It is adorned with body language and non-verbals, which either helps or hinders the message. Gospel arrows, sharpened to penetrate the heart, incorporate appropriate body-language and non-verbals. Sharpen your gospel arrows and employ this truth.