When Angel and I began the work of preparing to plant Thrive Church, we decided to make ourselves available to anyone who wanted to sit with us, one-on-one, to talk about Thrive, their experiences and expectations, and to answer any questions that might come up. Sometimes we talked over coffee at a local coffee shop, and sometimes we talked over the phone. It was a rewarding exercise as we began to “meet” the community.
There were some crazy unexpected moments too, but not in the enjoyable sense. We were shocked at some of the things we were hearing. People hurt by church people. We met jilted wives shunned from fellowship, even though the husband was the one who cheated. We met teenage girls, seeking acceptance, who were instead thrown out of church because of their clothing. We met young men and women, who Jesus had rescued from terrible pasts, only to be cast off by their faith community when that forgiven past came to light.
These stories were simultaneously sad and sickening. At times, I became angry. But, at no time was I more angry than when the person who sowed judgment and persecution into a person’s life was a pastor or other church leader.
The lips of a king speak as an oracle, and his mouth should not betray justice. (Proverbs 16:10)
All leaders, whether they deserve it or not, have what is called “positional authority” – authority that is granted only because of one’s position. As people experience a leader’s leadership, that leader may earn additional types of authority. But, even those who haven’t earned additional authority, enjoy that “positional authority” automatically. They may lose it when people find out more about them, but before that point, they have it. And even that small amount of authority can be thoroughly destructive and abused.
Fellow pastors and leaders , when we say something, it is given weight. The things we say matter more than we may want to admit. Our words come as a two-edged sword. Not only can our words show the light of Jesus, but they can also be instruments of the enemy. Not only can our words spur people towards holiness, but they can also carry people to harm (e.g. Jim Jones, David Koresh, Heaven’s Gate, etc.).
Our words have the power to heal or to destroy. Which power does my mouth wield? Which power does your mouth wield?