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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?

24 thoughts on “”

  1. FANTASTIC post! (yes, shouting!)

    How often I have been on both sides of the power of the tongue. Both positive and negative. I am trying to stop myself before I speak (or type) and ask myself if I am building someone up, or tearing them down.

    ps. Wordle/word clouds rock.

  2. I think through what I am saying for sure because I admit I have been a bonehead in the past and God has taught me and brought me through it. I am sure more bonehead days to come but praying they are less and less.

    I remind myself to think and be lead by the spirit before words come across my lips.

    Good Words!

  3. I once worked with a guy who did not have a lot of money, he was sick and dying a slow death from an incurable form of hepatitis, he had long hair, he drove a motorcycle,…and the list foes on. After talking with him on numerous occasions, he ventured to a church in his community with his family. They did not have “dress” clothes. Their Sunday best, was jeans and a t-shirt…

    They sat in someone else’s spot. They were confronted.
    They were not dressed appropriately. They heard the murmuring.
    He had long hair. They saw the looks thrown their way.

    They were not greeted. They were avoided.
    They did not experience love. They met with disdain.

    That one experience kept them from going to another church…

    Positional authority… As Christians, we each have the opportunity and the responsibility to be the visible light and love of Christ to a lost and dying world. Lives may hinge on our failure and/or success.

    May we use our Christ given authority to build people up through His light and love.

    1. My own daughter had a similar experience… she wasn’t poor by any means, but she is used to not having to dress up for church. She went to a very prominent church in my tribe and was confronted before she even got to the sanctuary doors, asked to go home and change then come back. She was wearing nice jeans and a nice shirt… thankfully she had the benefit of being under my ministry before she had that encounter…

  4. Life and death are in the power of the tongue. For leaders, we have more responsibility. I’ve been hit with this in different ways lately so I appreciate the confirmation slap (I mean that in a good way). I know you’re also like me and you write where God has been speaking to you so I feel encouraged that I am not alone. Thanks Herb.

  5. Which power does my mouth wield? Which power does your mouth wield?

    What’s crazy is that even our tones or expressions play such a role in this. I, for one, have to work on not coming across as a smart-allic. I have a dry sense of humor and sometimes it is often mis-understood. Thank you for the challenge/reminder today.

  6. Good insight bro’…we have so many opportunities to encourage people to life…

    “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:37

  7. I’m not a leader and surely have not their authority but I do have a mouth and a tongue and it is powerful and I can use it as I choose. There has been a time I have been praying Psalm 141: 3

    “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

    Yesterday I had written Colossians 3:1-2 on a paper and took it with me to work and reminded myself of this verse:

    “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. ”

    So I choose to think good, do good and speak good.

    Bye bye.

    1. Ani, really good scripture’s to go with this, sister (smile). While my message is primarily for leaders, everyone is called to be light for Jesus, so we all have to be responsible for our tongue, just as you say.

  8. You are on the money Herb. I have also been the recipient of listening to people talk about how they were shunned or asked not to come back because they didn’t meet certain criteria. Whatever happened to No Perfect People Allowed? I am so thankful that I pastor a church whose whole approach is “come as you are” but allow God to change your heart. Great thoughts.

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