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Here are four categories of speech church leaders should keep in mind at all times:

1.  Wisdom

Saying only Christ-honoring, life-giving things.  Always asking oneself, “Do the words I feel like saying rise to the level of wisdom?  If not, they have no place in my mouth.  Good intentions are not enough; leaders must show good judgment.  I will hold myself to a strict standard, because Christ’s honor and people’s safety are at stake.”

All the words of my mouth are righteous.  Proverbs 8:8

2.  Indiscretion

Well-intentioned, good-hearted, “loving” but unguarded words.  A sincere desire to be helpful and consoling, but violating a personal boundary of information ownership.  Indiscretion erodes people’s willingness to “walk in the light” with honesty about their problems (1 John 1:7).  As a result, indiscretion is a spiritually dampening power.

When words are many, transgression is not lacking;
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.  Proverbs 10:19

3.  Gossip

This might include factually true information.  But still, it should not be shared, for various reasons – for example, it might embarrass someone.  Since gossip might not involve actual falsehood, gossips often don’t realize how harmful they are.

. . . gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.  1 Timothy 5:13

4.  Slander

Deliberate falsehood, meant to harm and undermine and diminish someone’s reputation, bearing false witness, cutting someone down to size, abusive transference.

Whoever utters slander is a fool.  Proverbs 10:18

If a church’s leaders will hold themselves to the high standard of #1, their influence will be conducive to a gospel culture.  Not that we leaders will always live up to this standard.  But defining it clearly and winsomely will help make a church into a safety zone where sinners can get real with Christ and one another and start growing.

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5 thoughts on “Your church can be a gospel culture”

  1. Jason says:

    Thank you, Ray, for your consistent encouragement to pastors. This post made me think of the many times I’ve been refreshed here.

  2. Curt Day says:

    When looking at the categories of speech above, a Sesame Street question comes to mind.That question is, “Which of these is not like the others?”

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Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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