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Link between speaking, spiritual gifts explored

NEW ORLEANS (BP) — An idea that began with a simple joke set Rhonda Harrington Kelley on a journey to explore the connection between verbal communication and spiritual gifts.

About 10 years ago, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley introduced his wife Rhonda at an event. He quipped to the crowd that she had three spiritual gifts not listed in the Bible: sleeping, shopping and talking. The joke was well-received by the crowd, and Rhonda Kelley found herself drawn to the relationship between talking and many of the spiritual gifts addressed in Scripture.

This interest eventually culminated into a new book, “Talking is a Gift: Communication Skills for Women.” The book, co-written by Monica Rose Brennan, serves as a communication tool for women seeking to minister to other women. B&H Academics released the book Feb. 1.

After that humorous introduction, Kelly later began reading 1 Peter 4. She focused on the words “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.” They helped compel her study of the link between verbal communication and many of the spiritual gifts.

“So many of the spiritual gifts like teaching, administration, exhortation and mercy must use words to minister to others,” Kelley said. “That resonated in my heart and mind. Talking is a gift. It is a gift that God gives us to minister to others.”

Based on her teaching experience in the women’s ministry program at the seminary, Kelley had found that a textbook for women’s public speaking courses was needed at seminaries and Christian colleges. For years most of the public speaking textbooks specifically targeting women have been written from a secular perspective. Most of the “speaking” books from a Christian perspective targeted men and focused on preaching, she said.

“One of the reasons I felt it was so important to have a public speaking book written by a woman for women is because men and women are different and we communicate differently,” Kelley said.

When B&H Academic published its first academic book for women’s ministry in 2008 — “Women Leading Women” by Jaye Martin and Terri Stovall — Kelley wrote a proposal for “Talking is a Gift” and ultimately secured a publishing deal. “Talking is a Gift” is the second women-focused publication by B&H Academic.

As Kelley fleshed out the details of the book, she began to think about the advantages a co-author could bring to the project. She immediately thought of Brennan, who teaches women’s ministry at Liberty University. Kelley knew that Brennan would bring a unique perspective to the project. Not only is she from a younger generation, she also teaches on the collegiate level.

Kelley and Brennan help provide a general foundation for communication and discuss the gender dynamics of communication. B&H Academics supplemented the book with QR codes and links to online bonus material. The web-based material gives readers access to videos of Kelley and Brennan explaining key communication issues related to women.

“The book has some technical information, because it is an academic textbook,” Kelley said. “But our desire is that it would also be helpful to lay leaders. Many women in the church are having opportunities to teach and speak in different ways.”

Women’s ministry classes at The Baptist College of Florida, the University of Mobile, Ouachita Baptist University and Liberty University have begun using the book this semester. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary will begin using the book during March workshops.

“Talking is a Gift” is available for purchase through LifeWay Christian Stores and Amazon in hardback and electronic form. For more information, visit www.talkingisagift.com or “like” the “Talking is a Gift” page on Facebook.
Gary D. Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).