Are You a Servant Speaker?

I’ll never forget attending a women’s retreat made up of 200 small churches. 

Janet McHenry was the keynoter who shared the compelling story of her rancher husband’s conviction.  He was charged with felony animal abuse relating to the deaths of six calves during a two-day blizzard. After years of investigation, they experienced the overturn of the case in appellate court. She used this story to encourage us as she spoke of her prayerwalking ministry and the regeneration of her marriage through the challenges they experienced together.

Janet was transparent and authentic. I watched her engage with the women and stay ever present as she served for the two days and four sessions. She didn’t run off to the “green room” or hide out in her room to avoid meeting the needs of the women. She was the perfect example of a servant speaker.

But believe me, as a conference director and event planner, I’ve hired some speakers who didn’t serve well. Sometimes those who are used to leading don’t serve well if they aren’t calling the shots. 

One speaker shared, “I do great when I’m in charge…I’m a competent leader, but truth be told, I don’t do very well at following.” 

It was sad watching the weekend play out as this woman disengaged with the attendees who were eager to learn and connect. Instead, she spent her time taking advantage of those who could advance her own platform. This self-serving attitude was obvious as it left the women she was called to serve starving for her wisdom.

Jesus is such a great example of how we should serve! Even as the one on the platform who has been given a place of authority as we speak, his example of humility is to be coveted. 

Reading Philippians 2, we see some strong instruction from Paul on how we are to behave. This example of Jesus brings home the point very well.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty conceit, 

but in humility consider one another better than yourselves. 

Let each of you look carefully not only to your own interests, 

but also to the interests of others. 

Indeed, let this attitude be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. 

Though he was by nature God, 

he did not consider equality with God as a prize to be displayed, 

but he emptied himself by taking the nature of a servant. 

When he was born in human likeness, 

and his appearance was like that of any other man, 

he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death

—even death on a cross

(Philippians 2:3-8)

We recently held our first ever in person event for those called to write and speak for Him. The PROCLAIM 2022 Conference was filled with powerful and timely teaching by women whose hearts had been refined by the Master in their own calling to glorify Him in the written and spoken word. 

I was astounded at the common thread throughout–from the keynoters, workshop leaders, or the 10 Minute Tips shared from the stage, the resounding message was “serve your people.” 

Those “people” ranged from a retreat audience to a reader of your published writings, to a subscriber of your email newsletter list, to a local bookstore owner, to an event planner. The call was consistent…add value, serve, be present, love them, honor them, all which leads you to meeting their needs rather than your own. 

The women attending PROCLAIM! could not get over how enriched, seen and loved they felt as the faculty consistently served the ladies in attendance with excellence. It reminded me of the example I’d seen in Janet McHenry all those years ago, and how much it rings true today. 

Are you a servant speaker? How about asking God to reveal any areas you need to work on in order to line up with Philippians 2:3-8?

Lord, I surrender my speaking ministry to You and ask You to sanctify it by Your Holy Spirit. Show me, Lord, where selfish ambition or vain conceit have crept in so I can repent and receive Your forgiveness. 

Lord, please help me to value others over myself, to not only look to my own interests, but more so toward the interest of others. 

Oh, Lord, please work into me a heart that longs to make myself nothing so that I might emulate You … taking the very nature of a servant in every opportunity You give me to speak on Your behalf. 

In the Name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Question:  Who is the speaker who impacted your life in the most powerful way?  What did you learn from the teaching or example of that person?


2022 Speak Up Conference

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4 Comments

  1. Janet McHenry on 2022-05-06 at 3:24 PM

    Oh, Athena! You’ve touched me greatly. Thank you, friend. I would say the exact same of you.

  2. Carol Kent on 2022-05-03 at 6:58 PM

    Thank you for these excellent reminders to be a servant speaker, Athena. The speaker who positively impacted me when I was in my early twenties was Jill Briscoe. She had a passion for God’s Word and she mingled with the participants when she wasn’t on the platform. I saw her “investing” in the women she was speaking to.

    • Athena Dean Holtz on 2022-05-03 at 11:49 PM

      I love that. I’ve always been enriched and well fed by her teaching. So good that you could watch her in action!

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