October 1st, 2009

Hi. My name is Mike and I am a speakaholic.

For most of my 42 years in ministry, I’ve found myself speaking a lot. I speak to young people, youth workers, churches, and numerous secular organizations. It all started very innocently. I had a gift of communication, I enjoyed using my gift, and others gave me the opportunity to use that gift.

Those opportunities increased every year, and eventually I was speaking in the morning, in the afternoon, and late at night. I even found myself sneaking in a speaking engagement right under my family’s nose; I’d answer the phone and say, “yes,” to speaking during a time when my family had asked me to be home. But I couldn’t stop.

Soon, I became obsessed with speaking, and before I knew it, I’d graduated to international speaking. Not only was I gone much of the time, but when I was home, I was exhausted and no good to anyone around me because of jet lag and weariness. Before I knew what was happening, I was hopelessly addicted to communicating with others and was willing to sacrifice family, children, friends, and almost anything to have the opportunity to speak. Speaking was no longer what I did; it was who I was.

I am a speakaholic.

And guess what? Nobody cares.

People love speakaholics. There’s a demand for speakers, an insatiable market for communicators; there are unlimited opportunities. It’s not easy to communicate to this generation of adolescents; so those who can are in great demand for conferences, camps, retreats, and festivals. Speakers can quickly find themselves booked two or three years in advance.

I’ve met those who express a desire to develop a speaking ministry. Speaking is not a ministry; it’s a narcotic, an addiction, a seduction stronger than sex. Speaking is tangled up in our egos, in control.

Speaking is dangerous.

Speaking creates an illusion of necessity, of power, of control. Speakers are treated as special—just a notch above others. They’re given an honorarium, private housing, and all expenses paid. Even within the niche world of the Christian Church, speakers develop a following, and they experience—in a small way—fame.

Fame is always dangerous. Fame is always destructive. Fame isolates speakers and convinces them that they’re important—pivotal, even. Fame seduces speakers into believing their own press releases.

Speaking contaminates every speaker. And there are no exceptions. No speaker leaves the world of speakers unscathed. Not one. In fact, the only way a speaker can escape the negative consequences of speaking is to stop speaking.

There’s no other way.

Speaking is a maximum security prison from which there’s no escape. Speaking is a drug much more dangerous than heroin, because no one tries to stop you from your addiction; in fact, they encourage it. “I know you’re busy, but is there any way you could squeeze us in?” “Hey, we don’t want to take you away from your family; we’ll pay for your family to come.”

And what about the side effects? Speakers live in abject terror of the day when no one invites them to speak anymore. Speakers complain and moan about their exhausting schedule, while finding a way to squeeze in just one more speaking engagement. Speakers have no will power, no discernment skills. They’ll accept any and all invitations, no matter the price to everyone around them.

So here’s my solution.

Stop using speakers. Let’s ban speakers from our youth groups, our camps, our retreats. Let’s boycott all speakers and decide we will, instead, let our love of young people do the speaking for us. We’ll let our relationships do the talking.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll find a way to train young people to listen to the voice of Jesus speaking.

And to the speakers…we’ll just say, “no.”

If we don’t, then we must bear some of the responsibility for the speakaholics we create. We must confess to our part in creating and encouraging speakaholics—in essence, becoming pimps of dependency.

We’re the ones creating the demand, providing the drug, encouraging the addiction. We’re the ones using speakers for our own ends without any consideration of the damage speaking does to the speaker.

Just say no.

We don’t need speakers. We need listeners. We need more youth workers and more young people who are trained to listen to Jesus, to pay attention to what he is doing in the world, to notice where God is at work in their lives, and to hear, “I love you,” spoken from Jesus himself.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.