By Laura Leathers
Why are people so afraid of public speaking? Why does fear rob Christians of the joy that can be found in sharing their testimony? Could the answer be that we lack confidence? Confidence is not relying upon your own strength, but in the power and the work of Jesus Christ through our lives. The Apostle Paul wrote in Phil. 1:6, 'being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.' It is God who is able to complete the good work in a believer’s life, giving him or her the confidence or the ability “to persuade, to induce one by words to believe” (Strong’s Concordance).
Carol Kent, a gifted communicator, not only exemplifies God-confidence but has made a commitment to help others learn how to Speak Up with Confidence. “I truly believe part of the ministry I am called to is an equipping ministry, helping people learn how to communicate effectively,” says Carol. Through this ministry she has become a woman of influence to thousands of people who have found God - confidence to speak and share God’s message without fear.
Speak Up with Confidence is a communication-training seminar from a Christian perspective. Carol says, “Sometimes people ask, ‘What’s the difference between the Dale Carnegie course, Toastmasters, and Speak Up with Confidence?’ and I say, ‘It’s the Jesus part of it;’ it’s the Christian application.”
With a master’s degree in Communication Arts and a bachelor’s degree in Speech Education, Carol served as Director of Women’s Ministries under Dr. David Jeremiah and was a Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) teaching leader. Through BSF, she envisioned Speak Up with Confidence. Carol realized several women in the class had tremendous testimonies to share, but they had never been taught how to put them together in a concise way with a gospel presentation so people would be able to receive Christ after hearing them speak. Others loved teaching the Word of God, but didn’t know how to find an aim for their message that would help listeners follow through with a specific action step. There was also a need to learn how to outline a passage of Scripture. “The Lord put it in my heart that I might help people speed up the process of learning how to communicate God’s truth effectively,” says Carol.
Port Huron, Mich. is home for Carol and her husband Gene. Together they travel to retreats and conferences throughout the world. They have one grown son, Jason.
In addition to Carol’s speaking ministry she has authored many books including: Speak Up with Confidence, Mothers Have Angel Wings, Tame Your Fears, and Becoming a Woman of Influence.
JBU was able to visit with Carol and learn more about her passion for evangelism and equipping women in leadership. Join us as she shares specifically about being a woman of influence.
JBU: How does a woman become a woman of influence?
Carol: I believe the word influence is sometimes misunderstood. One of my friends said, “Why would you write a book on becoming a woman of influence? To me that word means strut your stuff, be somebody, try to impress others. I don’t think those are the characteristics of your life.”
I asked her if she had ever read the definition of the word “influence.” She had not. The dictionary says that influence is “a person’s indirect power over people, events, or things not through the exercise of physical force or formal authority, but by the force of character or wisdom.” That definition impacts me greatly, because I realize most people are not going to be impacted because I preached a sermon. They are going to be deeply moved by the force of character or wisdom. Living an authentic life in front of them draws them to want to be like Jesus. We try to model what Jesus taught because He has been the greatest influence of all time.
JBU: Must a woman make an intentional decision to become a woman of influence?
Carol: Yes, to be a positive woman of influence. All of us influence others, whether we realize it or not, either negatively or positively. We need to be very intentional in terms of influencing others on purpose for God’s glory. We are ambassadors of Jesus Christ. As we emulate who He was and follow His principles, we begin to influence others by the force of character or wisdom and by living out biblical principles.
JBU: Is there a difference between a woman of influence and being a mentor?
Carol: Mentoring is a little more directed. A person is making a commitment to invest time and energy in someone’s life on a regular basis. There is a sense of providing him or her with resources, encouragement, or biblical teaching. It is being there as a coach and a cheerleader on a regular basis. A woman of influence is someone who models biblical principles so that when others observe her, listen to her teach, or overhear her conversation, they can be impacted by her Christlike nature and life even though she is not officially a mentor.
JBU: Is there a particular book of the Bible you would recommend for women to study about influence and impacting others for the Kingdom?
Carol: The book of Matthew is an excellent place to begin. Each chapter is filled with powerful illustrations of how Jesus lived, what He said, and how He reacted to various situations.
My favorite part is the call from Jesus on Matthew’s life. We don’t know much about his life before that time, but we do know that many tax collectors had a reputation of questionable character. However, when Jesus looked at him, He saw the potential Matthew had to become everything God had designed him to be. His plan was for Matthew to become one of the biographers of Jesus’ life. For women in leadership, this is an excellent example for us to capture. We need to look beyond the surface to see what God sees and encourage a woman with the gift of administration or a woman who is an extraordinary children’s leader. Jesus taught us how to cast vision for people in a way that helps them realize their God-given potential.
JBU: Who is the woman in your life that has influenced you the most and why?
Carol: There are several women. First, is my mother, Pauline Afman. She is a woman of prayer. When I was a little girl I often saw my mother on her knees, praying out loud for her children and their future spouses. Observing her made me realize this was an essential part of being a godly woman. Mom is now 80 years old and prays diligently for each place I am speaking. I know that when God blesses and we see people impacted for the Kingdom, it isn’t because of the speaker. God always blesses, empowers, and opens ears to hear the truth when people are praying.
The next woman in my life was Corrie ten Boom. I heard her speak at the Maranatha Bible Conference. As a young woman I was so surprised when she appeared in a housedress and low-heeled lace-up shoes with her gray hair pulled back in a bun with a hairnet over the top. It definitely was not the dress for success look! She pulled out her precious homemade visual aids and as she spoke I felt the impact of this godly anointed woman.
She spoke of the need for each one of us to forgive. The sound of weeping filled the auditorium. I realized women were not weeping because of the powerful and polished presentation of a skilled public speaker. The tears represented the conviction of the Holy Spirit who had spoken to women individually through a very humble servant. God’s presence in that place was so real. I sat in my seat with tears in my eyes and said, "Lord, I want to be like that woman. I want my presence in a room to bring the essence of Jesus into the space I occupy. I don’t want to be known as being a gifted communicator. I want to be known for bringing the presence of Jesus with me when I am ministering."
The third person is the Executive Editor of this magazine, Jill Briscoe. I was in my mid twenties the first time I heard her speak to 3,500 women at a Winning Women Retreat in Kalamazoo, Mich. I have no idea what Jill was speaking about that day, but I knew the Holy Spirit was stirring in my soul that one day I would be speaking to women. There was this intense impression from the Holy Spirit that I was to become a student of the Word of God so that I would have something of substance to speak about when God opened those doors. God used her as a godly woman of influence who demonstrated how important it was to use the Word of God when we’re speaking. We need to make sure that our messages have substance and are built upon the Scriptures. Jill has constantly modeled that every time I have heard her speak. I look at her as one of my contemporary mentors, who showed me how to be a Christian leader in the best possible way.
JBU: How can women see themselves as someone God can use to influence someone’s life?
Carol: I believe it is a trick of the enemy to keep women feeling like they have nothing to offer. I would express to the woman who is feeling that way to go back to Gen. 1:27. She needs to say, “Lord, thank you for making me in your image.” Secondly, the Bible teaches that we are gifted for service and I would encourage that woman to write down any memories she has where God used her. It might surprise her to see what He was doing through her. Thirdly, she should list every place she has received blessing and affirmation. She will probably be identifying her gifts as she does this. Finally, I would encourage her to thank God for the times that He allowed her to be used. Influence is what happens in the small things. It is in the daily obedience. It is living today with a positive attitude and being open to the opportunities He brings our way.
JBU: How should a woman of influence model forgiveness?
Carol: We cannot be leaders without experiencing criticism. This area can lead to a root of bitterness for a leader. I’m reminded of a sign my friend saw in Canada. It read: “Please do not take pictures of the speakers as they address the audience; shoot them as they leave.” There is a great analogy here because so many times we feel knocked down by the critical comments of people. Something that has helped me to practice forgiveness is to realize most people who criticize me have either misunderstood my message, my material, or my motive. Jill Briscoe says, “Ask yourself if there is an infinitesimal amount of truth in what they have said. If so, deal with it. Do you have to go to someone and ask for his or her forgiveness? Ask yourself if it was possible they just misunderstood and they need clarification. If so take care of that. We need to choose to let it go and forgive them.”
I have learned that people who are putting people down often struggle with a low self-esteem; subsequently the only way they know how to build themselves up is to put another down. That helps me to have compassion for them and to forgive them. I have to process that in my heart by saying, God I know you have forgiven me and I choose to forgive them. I have to follow through in living with a gracious spirit even if they choose not to accept the offer of forgiveness. We need to practice instant forgiveness before something festers into a momentous issue.
JBU: Is there a higher calling for women in leadership?
Carol: There is a higher responsibility because of those who look to us. As Christians, we all have a high and holy calling. However, when we are in leadership positions, God gives us the awesome opportunity of proclaiming His Word, equipping others, and with that comes tremendous responsibility for living a godly life.
Therefore, be confident and press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. You can be a woman of influence because you have the very best reason to speak up with confidence.
Jesus was victor; Jesus is victor; Jesus will be victor. Hallelujah! ~ Corrie Ten Boom
Read "Between a Rock and a Grace Place" for more of Carol Kent's personal story and testimony.