At a leadership conference earlier this year, a presenter made a remark from the platform that was quite crude, to say the least.
I won’t repeat the remarks, but it had to do with giving away his male body parts if it would grow his church.
And there were women in the room.
It takes a lot, a whole lot, to offend me. But I was aghast.
The presenter was a pastor. And pastor of one of the biggest and fastest growing churches in America.
I respected this pastor.
But then that remark.
For good measure, he added, “I forget people don’t talk like me.”
Actually, many do.
I suppose he wanted us to view him as rebellious? Relevant?
I don’t want to sound high and mighty here. I’ve said things from the platform that I regret.
I remember a sermon I preached almost 8-years ago where I used the word “scumbag” regarding how a New Testament audience would have viewed a tax-collector.
I got called out on it.
I was surprised that word was such a big deal. But it offended many people. Turned them off from my message.
Over the years I’ve said that rebellion against God is like giving Him “the finger.”
I got called out on that one too.
Frankly, I think the image is spot on. But it doesn’t matter what I think. I’ve learned it does not bring the intended effect. I lose people with that word image.
This past weekend, in one of our weekend services I said that you don’t have to care what anyone thinks, just look to the love of God, those who love you, and everyone else can “kiss it.” Hindsight, even though it brought laughter, I’m not sure about that one either.
I’ve not been called out on it yet, but it’s only Wednesday.
These are all words I thought were impressive and got the point across more potently. But alas….
Shards of Glass
At least I can say I’ve never come close to naming male body parts I’d give away in order to have something—publicly or privately.
I’ve never used “pissed, sucks,” and such from the platform either. I don’t use those words in my personal life. I’m not judging you if you do. But from a pulpit? A leadership stage?
I’ve heard those words used many times from popular preachers and speakers from the platform. They’re like shards of glass piercing my ears.
I confess curse words come to mind from time to time when I’m frustrated and angered. A few have slipped out here and there (privately, not publicly). I find Proverbs 17:27 a huge help: “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”
Either way, I would never use any of the above words with my family, much less in meetings or on a stage. I care more about my character and audience than I do my coolness or relevance.
A quick way to lose respect, or to chip up one’s respect, is through words—curse words or crude words. The wisdom writer says, “Watch your words and hold your tongue; you’ll save yourself a lot of grief” (Proverbs 21:23).
A lot of grief… and respect.
I don’t think anybody is impressed or inspired by those words, especially from a leader.
Curse words or crude words don’t make a speaker, teacher, presenter, preacher, pastor, or person cool or relevant, either.
Just the opposite.
Exactly what, I’m not sure. Juvenile, maybe?
Scripture declares: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).
Let’s go with wholesome words, I’d say.
Especially from a platform of influence.
While we’re at it, I’d say let’s all forego the acronyms “wtf, lmao, omg,” and the like on social media too.
Instead, let’s use words that build up. Encourage. And don’t bring offensive, impure, or unprofitable images to mind. I have to remind myself of the same.
It’s wholesome words that are rebellious in this culture.
So let’s be rebels.
On and off a platform.
So what do you think? Do you agree? Not just from the pulpit, but in our personal lives? Am I being too sensitive? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
100% agree. When someone swears or uses profanity, the message gets lost. To me it is immature and unprofessional and sometimes ignorant. Thanks for writing this.
Thank you, Phyllis!
Great point!! If we all just took an extra second to consider what we truly mean to say, it would save us a lot of greif later on. And embarrassment!! Something all of us should strive for.
Indeed! Thank you, Dan!
I think we all need to speak the words that we would say as if Jesus were physically present in the room with us while we are conversing with others.
He may not be physically present but we know that He is Always present.
Great counsel. Thanks, Joe!
I can tell you with certainty that you’re spot on when it comes to this topic. I can also tell you that swearing off of swearing has made a very positive impact on my own life. I remember when I gave my life to the Lord 8 years ago, I made a decision to speak with a clean tongue and I’ve never looked back. On my job people will often apologize when they swear in front of me or refrain from doing so, which is what I did with someone on my job who was instrumental in my walk with Christ. I also find that I can get a point across a lot clearer and quicker when I don’t swear. I personally find it exciting to be a rebel in this way. Blessings!
John Santiago (Newburgh campus)
Good stuff right there, John. Thanks for sharing!
“It’s wholesome words that are rebellious in this culture.”
Love that. How ironic…but so true. Part of the problem is also the lack of listening. People do less listening, and as a result, the person who is expressing feels the need to have some shock value or aggression in their words in order to be heard. Unfortunately, it works because it is hard to ignore. They are definitely heard, but definitely not respected. We need to know how to speak with respect, but we also need to know how to (truly) listen with respect. Thank you for this post and the verses that you shared. They are helpful to read.
“Listen with respect.” Love that too. Thanks for sharing!
The Lord reminds me of the scripture “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21 NIV I know if I say something or hear something that is not pleasing in the Lord’s eyes I grieve the Holy Spirit. So I repent of what I have said or get away from the source that is grieving the Holy Spirit within me.
Pastor Jarrod you are not being to sensitive. The Holy Spirit in us is sensitive so I think the more we get in tune to the Holy Spirit the more sensitive we become. I agree with you. When you wrote in your blog “I care more about my character and audience than I do about my coolness and reverence.” I think of the scripture “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” Matthew 7:17 NIV
Powerful words, Dina. Thank you!
In general I agree wholeheartedly with you! Gratuitous profanity has no good place in our speech. But colorful language does have its place, when used very selectively for emphasis, and for accuracy. For example, perhaps when describing a president elected to high office who then uses his position for personal gain and other conflicts of interest.
While the leadership pastor’s words may not have been the best choice in the moment, depending on the demographic, his gritty expression may resonate more deeply with his home crowd than an approach that’s predictably genteel. His passion for the Gospel of Christ is the important thing, and he unwittingly spawned (this) excellent discourse.
I think Paul threads the needle well on such considerations when he says “all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.”
Thanks for a thought-provoking piece, Pastor Jarrod!
Appreciate your thoughts, Mark!
Ouch:( I’m not proud to share this but your post convicted me. How timely!! I have been struggling with my language for some time and I have felt the spirit in me grieve and correct this deep flaw in my character. I’m not sure why I am having such a hard time deleting this language from my speech but it does come up more times than I can say. Luckily less and less in front of people but when I am alone and something frustrating happens I find myself cursing. It’s actually even offensive to my ears. Please pray with me that I will be freed from this offensive language and God continues His loving patience with me. I agree wholeheartedly that foul language doesn’t impress anybody just the opposite. Words matter! He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troublesPROV21:23
Thank you for sharing, Lisa!
It becomes difficult in today’s world to stay away from these phrases. A lot of times I feel I’m looking for an answer to “what’s right” and how to explain to others the power held in our words. What comes to mind for me is Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” I certainly don’t want to misrepresent my heart with my words, especially knowing I’m a representative of Jesus.
That’s a good word! Thanks Dana!
Yes and yes. I totally agree. In fact, I was visiting my Mom’s church, where I grew up and was married, a month ago. The latest Pastor there was giving the sermon and mentioned difference between “hanged” and “hung”. Anyway, he was not reading from notes and just weirdly, shockingly said something that blew me away…I even exclaimed, “woah” out loud. I told just two people about this but was so shocked that a pastor, a minister if the gospel would say this from the pulpit. I am not a prude either but I totally agree with you. Our example to others that we put out there are always being scrutinized. I am not perfect and so many times I think about what I just said in conversation with someone…not always good to keep reexamining ourselves in that way, by the way. I try to think of the kids song, “Oh, be careful little eyes what you see…be careful little lips what you say”.
Yeah. Shock factors rarely deliver, If ever. Thank you for commenting Bonnie!
Jarrod, thanks for covering this topic which is not popular these days! I know my go-to, catch-all, expression word of “crap”, while perhaps on the milder side, is still unwholesome and doesn’t help me or anyone. Thanks especially for the call to stop with the acronyms on social media too. I cringe every time I see them as I don’t think people realize how powerfully 3 to 4 letters actually communicate.
That’s my default word too. Trying to reign that in myself. Thanks for sharing, Michele!
Gordon also had incident at Promise Keepers many moons ago when he brought our son Matthew , age 13 yrs. One of the presenters, who was with the organization, kept repeating a certain word that we always told our kids was a derogatory, lazy way to speak. Gordon had to speak with our son and the next day , there was an apology. It seems that we each need to examine the reasons “why” it would be appropriate to say anything in that way. Also, since getting sick, I have been continually reminded by God to think on things that are true, pure, kind and beautiful. When we fill up with these things, it is difficult to have anything so negative or derogatory in our minds or hearts.
Sorry to hear that about your son… especially from Promise Keepers. Seeking a pure mind and heart is indeed the way to go—from out of the inner-being that mouth speaks (Jesus). Thanks for the reminder!
A different perspective. I am unsure as to what has impacted me more, the reminder of how our choice of words has a great impact on our witness (whether “raw” words or not), or your acknowledging your falling into the muck, even if strictly on an internal level. The reminder that our pastor is human, not claiming to be superior in any sense (except perhaps for ball handling skills) is comforting and strengthening.
I also interpret this piece as a reminder, not an admonishment.
Thank you, Gordon. Very human in fact! I truly appreciate your words.
Thank you Pastor Jarrod for sharing this message..I too am guilty as charged when it comes to letting a few choice words slip out..I have been trying to watch it lately and although have not been perfect..have been doing better. Thanks for the reminder to watch my mouth!
Lisey- Warwick Campus
Thank you, Lisey!
Words are powerful, Proverbs 18 has so much to offer regarding how we use words and the effect, I especially like vs 20 & 21. “Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction. The tongue can bring death or life;” We are bombarded by words carelessly tossed to deliberately insult, belittle, mislead, label, discourage, and one translation says ‘words kill or nourish’. A reputation can be destroyed in a Word. Rude has become an acceptable way of life. Making a big noise to get your way or control your own little world is a killer.
I like Pro 31:26 “When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instruction with kindness.” That would be a nice reputation to have.
AND…Billy Graham verse from Jeremiah 15:19. NLT “If you speak good words rather than useless ones, you will be my spokesman. You must influence them; do not let them influence you.” (From his Memorial Magazine )