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Pound for pound, nothing is as powerful as your tongue.  The average tongue is only 2.46 ounces, but its power is exponential.  

As pastors, we count on God to use our tongues as His instrument.  We carefully craft the words of our sermons to inspire, challenge, teach and encourage those in our congregation.

But the strategic use of words isn’t limited to the platform or to a Sunday morning.  In last week’s article, we talked about using our words to bless and speak life into others.  We also talked about learning the art of good delivery.

This week I want to add 2 additional strategies for the wise use of words.

1. Defuse Instead of Detonate

Think for a moment about a bomb squad.  These are men and women who are skilled and trained in defusing a potentially devastating explosion.  As a pastor, you must learn to neutralize explosive situations.

We’ve all been in those moments when someone lobbed a verbal hand grenade into the conversation. And in that moment we get to decide whether we will DEFUSE or DETONATE.

Solomon says,

A gentle answer deflects anger,
    but harsh words make tempers flare.  Proverbs 15:1 (NLT)

I wonder if he were living today if he might say…

A gentle response defuses a volatile situation,
     But harsh words blow things up.

The older we get and the more mature we get, the softer we should be and the more gentle our words should be.  In Philippians 4:5 Paul said “let your gentleness be evident to all.”

I was with a man the other day who is going through a separation with his wife.  He said “I’m a TRUTH guy.  I analyze the data and the facts.  So, when my wife would say that I hurt her or that she didn’t feel valued, I would start presenting her with facts and would start building a case for why she shouldn’t feel hurt.  I was focused on being right rather than responding with love and gentleness.”

Then he said, “I need to stop building my case and start building a bridge”.  Gentleness builds a bridge.

Every day you carry around with you two invisible buckets.  In one bucket is water and in the other bucket is gasoline.  You have to be wise enough to know which bucket to use in each conversation.  If you are trying to inspire change or motivate people or ignite the fire of potential, you want to pour gasoline on the conversation.

But if you are trying to be a peacemaker or bring calm into a situation where the sparks of conflict are already flying, you want to pour water on that conversation.

Some people make cutting remarks,
    but the words of the wise bring healing.  Proverbs 12:18 (NLT)

The wisest of leaders know how to inject words into a conversation that bring healing and peace.  But occasionally you will need the courage to use your words to shut down or redirect an inappropriate conversation.

2. Learn the Wisdom of Silence

Sometimes the best use of words is not to use any.  Just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should.  As pastors, we are used to filling the air with our words.  It’s what we do.  People are always looking to use for answers and counsel.  They look to us for direction and to help solve problems.  But Solomon was absolutely clear that sometimes it is best to choose silence over speaking.

Too much talk leads to sin.
    Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.  Proverbs 10:19 (NLT)

Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent;
    with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.  Proverbs 17:28 (NLT)

Do you want people to think you are exceptionally bright?  Keep your mouth shut!!  According to Solomon, you can raise your IQ 10 points just by not saying a word.

Someone has said, “A meaningful silence is always better than meaningless words.”

I think Psalm 19:14 is a fitting prayer for us as pastors and leaders in ministry.  Meditate on these words this week and let them guide you in your conversations this coming week.

May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart
    be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Lance is the founder of Replenish ministries and is often referred to as a Pastor’s Pastor.  He is also the author of the book Replenish, which is dedicated to helping leaders live and lead from a healthy soul.  Before launching Replenish, Lance served 20 years as a senior pastor and 6 years as an Executive/Teaching pastor at Saddleback Church. 

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