The King’s Speech

My wife Jane and I went to see a movie recently and had an unusual experience. When the movie was over the audience applauded. Not the half-hearted formal applause that you sometimes hear when people feel obligated to do so. But genuine, heartfelt applause from people who had been genuinely moved by what they had just seen and heard. It is the sort of thing that happens in politics once in a while. Less often in church. At least in the churches I attend. But I have hardly ever seen it take place in a movie theater.

 What made this even more remarkable was the fact that the movie was about a speech therapist. The King’s Speech tells the story of King George VI of England. A royal son who never expected to become king, he was eelevated to the throne at the beginning of the war with Germany and was called upon to address the nation over the new medium radio. The film not only traces the king’s struggle to find his voice, but portrays the growth of his friendship with speech therapist Lionel Logue, a commoner and an Australian whose controversial methods focused not only the technique but the reasons behind the king’s impediment.

 As a preacher I can identify with the king’s dread of public speaking. The expression on Colin Firth’s face as he approaches the microphone for the first time captures the dread felt by anyone who must make a public address. As someone who teaches others to preach, I identified with Lionel Logue, winsomely portrayed by Geoffrey Rush, whose performance captures the thrill of pride every teacher feels when a student makes genuine progress.

 As a Christian and a preacher, I could not help thinking how important the voice is to the Christian faith. As Stephen Webb observes in his book The Divine Voice: “Christianity has an oral quality.” Christianity and public speaking are bound together. St. Francis is supposed to have told his followers to “preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words.” If this is true, it was foolish counsel to give. The gospel is a verbal message. It cannot be communicated apart from words. As those who speak for the king of Kings, this is not only our duty. It is our great privilege.

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9 thoughts on “The King’s Speech

  1. “If this is true, it was foolish counsel to give. The gospel is a verbal message. It cannot be communicated apart from words.”

    It can and must be communicated through all of our human faculties and all of our gifts and strengths, otherwise the ‘integrity’ of our Christian formation ‘in Christ’ is lacking and our verbal preaching is subject to the ridicule of those who notice that we may ‘talk the talk’, but our heart isn’t into ‘walking the walk’.

    St. Francis, once ‘converted’, was able to communicate with other creatures of God through his compassion for them. He is remembered for his humility before the Lord.

    Some lives radiate Christ to others. When that happens, converts are made by the thousands.

  2. I can understand a philosophy of mission that elevates proclamation. But we shouldn’t we take care to avoid obscuring the importance of listening and acting — both of which Christ did. Thanks for the stretch!

  3. I think I see where Christiane is coming from, as well as John. I suppose my answer would be that when preaching the ‘Gospel’ it is ALWAYS necessary to use words, however it can’t stop at our words. I think that is an important distinction to make. If we are simply being missional, or intentional, whatever the catch word of the day is…yet not verbally communicating why we are doing this and the reasonings behind it, you aren’t fully proclaiming the Gospel. In the same way, if you merely talk about it but don’t do it and live it, you are making the same mistake…maybe even a greater one.

    Just my 2 cents.

  4. Pingback: Will the Real Francis Please Stand Up? « johnbotkin.net

  5. Excellent post. They say that public speaking is everyone’s #1 greatest fear. People are frightened of public speaking. As inadequate vessels as we are, praise God, that He is sovereign and can use the worst of us. Moses did not think he had very polished speaking or homiletical skills (Ex. 4:10), yet we all know how God used him.

    Several years ago, I was blessed to hear numerous mentally handicapped people share their testimonies at our church. They had Down Syndrome. Yet, they were able to share their faith in a way that was easily understood. One guy even told the congregation that if anyone wanted to talk to him more about Jesus, he was available after service to talk. After I heard them share their faith, I wept for the rest of the service. I had never witnessed people so severely handicapped who were not only able to comprehend the gospel but also able to share it. If people like that can share their faith, what does that say of us?

    Simply put, we have no excuse for not being able to share the verbal message of the gospel.

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