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Your words matter.  As a pastor and leader, your words matter even more.  In last week’s article we talked about using our words to bless people.  And, we also talked about the art of good delivery.  It’s not just what you say, but how you say it.  This week I want to share 3 additional practices for using words appropriately.

1.   Defuse instead of detonate

We have to be like a spiritual bomb squad.  A bomb squad is a group of people who are skilled and trained in defusing a potentially devastating explosion.

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

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

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 says “let your gentleness be evident to all.”

I was with a man the other day who is going through a separation with his wife.  As he described their situation 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 I would start building a case for why she shouldn’t feel hurt.  I was focused on my RIGHTNESS rather than responding with love and gentleness. I need to stop building my case and start building a bridge.”

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

2.  Embrace correction  (submit to accountability)

All of us have areas where we need to grow.  We have rough edges and broken places from our past.  Every single one of us have blind spots.

God uses people and their words in our lives to shine a light on our blind spots and to smooth out some of the rough edges.  And if I am going to become like Jesus, I need a handful of people in my life that can tell me what I need to hear, not just what I want to hear.  I need people who love me enough to tell me the hard truth.

Now, I don’t need many of these people and someone who volunteers probably isn’t the right person.

A young lady was talking to John Wesley one day and said “I think I know what my talent is.  I think my talent is speaking my mind.”  Wesley replied “I don’t think God would mind if you bury that talent.”

I’m not talking about a person who is a verbal wrecking ball.  I’m talking about being open to correction from a friend who authentically loves you.

It takes courage to really open yourself up to correction and accountability, but it is absolutely necessary to our growth and development.

An open rebuke is better than hidden love!
Wounds from a sincere frien are better than many kisses from an enemy.  
Proverbs 27:5-6 (NLT)

Proverbs uses the word rebuke several times and in virtually every instance, rebuke is seen as a gift. 

People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore correction will go astray.  Proverbs 10:17 (NLT)

I think an important question that every pastor needs to answer is “who in your life can rebuke you?"

3.  Learn the wisdom of silence

Just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should.

Solomon has clear and practical advice on the topic of silence.

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

Do you want people to think you are smart?  Keep your mouth shut!!

According to Solomon, you and I can raise our IQ 10 points just by not saying a word.

The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking;
the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words.  Proverbs 15:28 (NLT)

Let me get real personal.  Which one of these has the Holy Spirit spoken to you about today?  It’s the point that made you squirm inside.

What if I asked your spouse or kids or people you work with.  Which one would they single out for you to work on?  Ask them.

The words of Psalm 19:14 (NLT) really do capture what I want for my life.  And I believe it’s what you want for your life.

May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart

be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.  Psalm 19:14 (NLT)




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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