By Tony Marciano
I’ve been ordained for almost four decades. Public speaking has been part of that responsibility, but in 2001, something changed that part of my life.
Somehow, I was invited to participate in a public speaking workshop. Our leader was Lou Solomon. She gave me a gift of public speaking that changed my life. Suddenly, speaking at churches or service clubs wasn’t just part of my job description. Instead, it became my love. In fact, can I say it was my “drug of choice.”
If you know me, you know I love to eat. If you’ve seen me, you know I need to lose at least 50 pounds. But if you gave me a choice between a bowl of macaroni and cheese or a microphone, I don’t have to think twice. Not only will I choose the mic, but I also don’t eat before I speak.
I recognize I am a shy person. Send me to a networking event and if I speak to three people, it was a good night for me. But, ask me to speak in front of that same crowd with two minutes notice and I come alive. I love the unspoken dialogue between the audience and me. I watch faces and body language and am constantly in my mind rewriting my talk as I assess if I am engaging with the audience or not.
I also know when I speak I am drained, sometimes for several days after the event. I recently had a Sunday where I preached at one church and two hours later did a workshop on addiction at another church. I loved it. But when Monday came along, I was catatonic. I knew my adrenaline was depleted. When that happens, I tend to be short with people. That is never good.
Fast forward to my saying no. Two leaders from a church I was mentoring came to speak to me. They had just lost their pastor of 6 months and was trying to figure out next steps. We discussed church leadership, elders, etc. I asked about the vetting process for the pastor who had recently resigned.
Then, one of the leaders look at me and said, “We’d like to ask you to help with pulpit supply on Sundays. Can you help?” Without missing a beat, I said, “No. I will consider it but at this juncture, I have to say “no.” I am just getting my life back since I am no longer HOA President. I will only consider it.”
That wasn’t the answer they were expecting. We discussed various ways to fill the pulpit on Sundays. I could see the desperation on their face. Yet, I had to stand firm on my “no.”
I knew what I would be committing to if I said yes. It would be a long search, probably over a year. I would be saying “yes” to preaching most of the Sundays. I would also be depriving myself of the opportunity to be fed at the church I attended. I would be giving of myself six days a week, both at the Rescue Mission and at this church. I would not get filled up in order to give to others. Soon, my own tank would be empty. I would be no good, for the residents at the mission, for the congregation at the church, and for my family.
I’ve learned to say “no” to the good, so I can keep my calendar open to say “yes” to the excellent.
Invite me to come speak at your church or civic club. I’d love to do that. I also know it is a one-time event and I can handle that.
I’ll be back soon. Until then, live well my friend.
The Rev. Tony Marciano is president and CEO of the Charlotte Rescue Mission.