Stage Fright

I was with 15,000 other people in Philips Arena for the Catalyst Conference in 2004. The place was packed with pastors, church leaders, business leaders and students. We were all hungry to learn from the best and brightest. Andy Stanley was there, Reggie Joiner, Erwin McManus, Chuck Colson, John Maxwell and many other amazing speakers. All of those guys are primarily speakers, but they’ve all written books too. One guy who was scheduled to teach twice on the main stage was Ted Dekker. He is a best-selling author, and at the time his books were selling better than anyone else’s.

I was excited to hear what he had to say about storytelling. I had my pen ready, my notebook out, and he approached the stage for his 45-minute presentation. He was scheduled to do a 2nd session later that week on that same stage.

Two minutes later he walked off the stage and we never saw him again. He got the worst case of stage fright I’ve ever seen.

He couldn’t finish a sentence. He couldn’t find his thoughts. He couldn’t make sense of his notes. He literally froze.

He’s sold more than 5 million books, but on that day he couldn’t make it 5 minutes on stage.

It made me think about what it’s like for some pastors. We’re expected to be good at everything! Speaking, leading, administration, planning, coaching… you name it. I had no idea what I was doing for my first few years of ministry, but I could speak, so I was in charge! I wasn’t the best leader available, but I was the best talker, so I was the man in command.

It makes me think that some people should just teach, and not lead. Some people should just lead, and not teach.

But when do you suck it up and try again? Should Ted give public speaking another shot? Maybe he already has. Should I try to learn to dance even though that has always ended horribly (in public and in private)? Should I face my fears and my weaknesses, or find my strengths and improve on those?