Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. (ESV)
The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth. (KJV)
To be a man of God, or a minister of God, is to be able to do many things. Our aim of the Cut it Straight podcast is to pursue excellence in our preaching and ministry. However, there is a lesson, or a perhaps a discipline, that much of our ministry training overlooks and that is personal communications. While we are communicating in the pulpit while we preach and teach, that is the least amount of communicating that we will do as God’s men. Pulpit ministry constitutes very little of what we do. While that may be one of the most important aspects, and it may be how we measure success, unfortunately, it takes up very little of what we do week in and week out.
I would dare say that the most preaching that you will do will not be in the pulpit, it will be in the midst of personal relationships and interpersonal communications. In today’s episode I want to look at the lost art of personal communications. I feel this is a neglected topic in ministry training. Further more, I believe it might one of the most necessary.
While I have focused on young ministers, this is a lesson for all ministers. I believe longevity in ministry and sustained excellence in ministry is connected to how we speak and communicate to others beyond the pulpit, though our communication in the pulpit should be just as important.
· The Preacher and His Pulpit
· The Preacher and His Peers
· The Preacher and His Family
· The Preacher and His People
Since we are preachers, let us begin here. As men of God we do have the important task of preaching and communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Keep in mind that we serve a speaking God who created all things by His Word, and redeemed the world by becoming the Word made flesh. Christ is the embodiment of the Word of God.
And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.
We are merchants of words. Again, our message is based on the Word of God. Let us keep in mind that we are to preach the Word (). The Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit and it is sharper than any two-edged sword. While the word of God is a sword we must be careful in how we handle the Word. We can wound and hurt, or we can be as precise as a surgeon.
The preacher sought acceptable word (). Choose the best words. Choose acceptable words. Do not use the pulpit to be vulgar and profane. But it also not to be a place to declare your personal opinions and preferences. The Word of God is to be the well from which we draw from to declare to our hearers. Many have been hurt by preachers who have chosen the wrong words. We can kill or make a alive.
Life and death is in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:31). You can bring people to life, or you could wound and kill. That’s not to say that the Word of God will not offend, it is foolishness to those who not believe. I wish I could go back and unsay a lot of things I’ve said from the pulpit over the years. I’ve miscommunicated and chose the wrong words. I’ve had to put my foot in my mouth and apologize several times. If you will choose to simply preach the Word and choose acceptable words then you won’t make the same mistakes I’ve made.
1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.
We all stumble in many ways! What a relief to know that the apostle James knew what it was life to stumble in what he says.
When you are preaching make sure to give honor where honor is due. This is especially true if you are in another church’s pulpit.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.
Don’t just get up and begin preaching, take your time and honor the people you are ministering to.
Bishop McCool has influenced much of my understanding on speech and how to communicate. Several times he has taught on the “tone zone.” This means not just choosing the correct words, but choosing the correct tone. Our tone can drown out the correct words. We can unsay a lot of good words by choosing the wrong tone. I know of many who have good things to say, they just have an awful way of saying it.
Before you say it out loud say it in your head. Let your words be seasoned with salt as Paul said in Colossians. Salt can sting when rubbed into a new wound, but it can also add much flavor to bland foods. The same is true with words. How you say it can add greater effect to your carefully chosen words.
Now, we are talking about the lost art of personal communications. As preachers, and young preachers this is very important. You aren’t going to be simply measured by how well you speak in the pulpit but also how you speak to others. Perhaps to other preachers.
As young ministers ego can be deadly. You want to have success and you want to have the right opportunities. But I’ve seen young ministers devour one another due to jealousy and envy. You will never have your light shine brighter by trying to put someone else’s light out.
Be supportive of other young ministers. Don’t tear others down in attempts to build yourself up.
Speech that doesn’t build up tears down.
Don’t be the person who comes up to another preacher and tell them how you would have preached it better. Don’t tell them how they could have improved, or what they left out. Don’t be that guy. Instead, build up.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Chances are if you can’t say anything nice then perhaps its not the other preacher or their sermon, but perhaps your own heart.
The pulpit, the church, the conference, the camp, the Sunday school classroom, or small group will not be the most influential place for your ministry. You will have the most spiritual influence in your home with your family. Some believe that if you have the correct public persona that you can neglect your home life.
How do you speak to your wife? How do you speak to your children? How do you talk when you’re at home and there isn’t a pulpit? How do you communicate within the confines of your home? How do you speak to your mom and dad? Do you honor them? Or is honor only given to pastors and preachers?
· You are to honor your parents: , “Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
· You are to honor your wife: “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
· You are to honor your children: , “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” , “Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.”
4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,
5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church
The majority of your ministry is going to be outside of the pulpit. There are counseling sessions, there are meetings, there extemporaneous encounters and you will need to be ready.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Listen, people know when you are being fake. People can spot fake kindness.
There is nothing wrong in shaking hands and kissing babies. Just don’t do it to get ahead. You’re not doing that to win votes. Shake hands and kiss babies because you love people. Treat people like you want to be treated. Talk to people like you want to be talked to.
Let me recommend Dale Carnegie’s book: How to Win Friends and Influence People. This was one of the most influential books when I began ministry. I can still recall many of those chapters and lessons.