Preaching Language

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by Shortandy, Jul 18, 2010.

  1. Shortandy

    Shortandy
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    Today I preached from 1 John 5:1-5 and how truly loving our brothers means loving them with and attitude and view towards magnifying and keeping the commandments of God.

    In the 1st part I shared that one of the things that plagues humanity is the temptation to be "catch-phrase" theologians and cling to bits and pieces of scripture instead of the whole council of God and letting those catch-phrases be the measuring rod for our doctrine.

    My first example of this is how we define love with a Greek-Roman context and sometime a Hedonistic context. I specifically targeted marriage and how a woman might have this mindset of love and therefore she expects her man to buy her stuff and always say and do the most romantic things. When the man doesn't live up to her unhealthy and un-biblical expectation she divorces him and moves on to the next guy.

    In the midst of this little speech I made the comment that love means loving that man for who and what he is...a "dumb, screw-up" that is saved by grace.

    After that statement a man got up and took his family with him.

    My question is this....what that not an appropriate statement? If not where should the line be drawn for a pastor on what is and is not acceptable to say?
     
  2. Revmitchell

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    The world has for some years now worked to place the father/husband in the light that he is dumb, in need of a mother, cannot do anything and inferior to the woman. What you said could be taken in that same vein. I would have at least questioned it.

    But who knows why people get up and walk out. Maybe they received a text of an emergency at home or any number of unrelated issues. Unless you have spoken with them I would not speculate as to why they left.
     
  3. Jim1999

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    If that is your sermon language, let alone doctrine, I would walk out as well.

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  4. exscentric

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    Ask the man, you might get a better answer but your terminology is offensive to some. Do not know if that was his problem or not.
     
  5. Salty

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    I once spoke with a man who said he stopped coming to church because I used too many different passages in my message! -
     
  6. Shortandy

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    Do men not say and do dumb things in the context of marriage because they are not perfect? Do women not get divorced because they have unbiblical views and expectations of love and marriage? If that is bad doctrine then please enlighten me sir as to the error of my thinking.
     
  7. Tom Bryant

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    Sometimes, it is not what you say, but whether you have earned the credibility to say it. I can say things after 12 years here that I could never have said when I first came here. Other times it is not what you say but how you say it.

    But I agree with the Rev about asking why they left.
     
  8. tinytim

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    My dad would never let me use the word "screw" as in "screw-up" because of the sexual connotation associated with it.

    On the other hand, I heard a sermon once called "The Wussification of the American church"
     
  9. Tom Butler

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    We all know about "sugar-coated cusswords."

    Ever said "dad-gum it?" Or "gosh-darn it?" Care to speculate what they substitute for?

    I doubt if many of us are bothered by their use.

    But the sugar-coated expression in the OP may go too far, depending on the context.

    In one context, it simply means we fouled up.

    In another, it has offensive sexual connotations, even when it is substituted for another extremely offensive word.

    Now, to be sure, we have developed such sugar-coating because we recognize that the real expressions are so offensive, even to us, that they should not pass our lips, nor be uttered in polite company.

    And, hypocritical though it may be, expressions like the OP may get by in another setting, but not in the pulpit.

    By the way, are any of you bothered by the casual use of "Oh my God" as much as I am? But I'm not bothered by "Oh my goodness," the sugar-coated version. Thoughts?
     
  10. Jim1999

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    I learned early on when I came to Canada, that certain English expressions were not acceptable in Canada or the USA. They were perfectly good expressions, but not in every country.

    I will give one that got my face slapped by a young lady when she was needing accommodations and had plenty of spare rooms....I said, "I would bed her for the night..." Another English bloke explained that I was just offering a place to sleep and nothing more. She was American and it was in Chicago.

    In England, we knocked people up in the morning, including women! Not exactly what it means in America!

    We must carefully choose our language for the pulpit, and this includes how we preach certain topics in mixed company. The doctrine may very well be valid, but not always appropriate in the setting.

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  11. Pastor Larry

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    That's a rather injudicious to talk about the issue. I am not sure it justifies walking out, particularly if this is a one-time deal.

    But generally speaking, our language in the pulpit needs to lean towards more judicious and dignified in keeping with the greatness of our God and his gospel, not less judicious. We can make our points a lot of ways, but we must consider whether or not we are clouding the gospel communication by trying to be folksy or straightforward.

    A comment like this, while probably made with good intention and without much thought, it simply unnecessary. There are other better, more biblical ways to say it. We do not need to stoop to something like this, particularly in the context it was used here.
     
  12. Shortandy

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    But don't we at times forfeit a certain emphasis of the severity of our sinful thoughts, attitudes and actions by trying to avoid harsh language? Isn't the bible full of harsh statements regarding God's people? Im working through Hosea right now on Sunday evenings and harlot is used to describe the hearts of God's people. Should I not share with my own church that we, at times are like filthy, unfaithful harlots or whores?

    Now I will grant you that I could have said, "sinful" or "depraved " but I wonder if that would have carried the same emphases with the culture in which I preach and teach.
     
  13. jaigner

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    I'm not sure I concur with the theology in the point from your OP, but that's not really the issue here, I don't think. You are correct in saying the bible is way more emphatic and impolite than most of us are comfortable with. Ever read Ezekiel? How about the Greek roots of the word Paul used a couple time that we translate as "body?"

    Unfortunately, people get all up in arms about nothing.
     
  14. TomVols

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    Pastor Larry is on the mark here. There are words/phrases that people just would not be warm to hearing from the pulpit, and be downright offended if they did.

    In the south, saying "hind-end" is tantamount to using a curse word for talking about your butt or tail. One preacher used this in a sermon and got gasps.

    One of my own: I used the word "stupid" a couple of times in a sermon to describe the person's actions who had accepted a sinful lifestyle as legitimate. I noticed a young girl (maybe three or four) on a Sunday night whirl around and look at her mother. Later in a totally innocuous conversation, the mom said that she had been teacher her daughter to never use that word. I never have again from the pulpit. There are far better words.

    "Screw" clearly has a connotation that is not proper or fitting from the pulpit. I don't think you intended it to be thus, but how someone received it may have been. Words like "Gee" for instance can be quite innocent, but knowing that it's a word used in place of taking the name of Jesus in vain has caused me to banish it from my vocabulary forever.

    I could see why the folks would be offended if they heard "Screw-up." And there are folks who get offended when we say "Good morning," but in light of that, let's not go looking for words that will do the trick when the fact that we live and breathe ticks some people off :laugh:

    Talk to the people. Clear the air. If they stay offended, that's their choice. And if you want my advice: used "fouled-up" or "really messed-up" or the like, instead.

    By the by, this brings up a broader point: preachers should be experts in language. The difference between the right word and the wrong word, as Twain said, is like the difference between lightining and lightning bug.
     
    #14 TomVols, Jul 19, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 19, 2010
  15. Pastor Larry

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    I am not suggesting we avoid harsh language. But "screw up" and "dumb" isn't harsh language. It's cultural slang with a double entendre (in one case) that does not serve to fully emphasize the nature of sin. There are clear, harsh ways of talking about sin that don't involve the double-entendre.

    Full of? That's probably an overstatement. It certainly contains some, but the idea that some have communicated that it was the equivalent of modern profanity or slang is overstated.

    Sure? But do we say, "You guys are a bunch of two-dollar ho's"? Or "We are like a bunch of streetwalking sluts"? Probably not.

    I suppose it depends on the teaching that goes on. I think we can demonstrate the problem you addressed without "screw up." I have routinely said that sin is "dumb." It makes no sense. No person who thinks right does it.

    I think it's a fine line.

    I also wonder how we should incorporate Paul's statements in 1 Cor 2 that he specifically avoids certain types of language in order to make sure that the power is of the Spirit through the gospel. I am not sure how far that applies, but it certainly seems, to me at least, to have something that informs our discussion here.

    In other words, you speak of "carrying the same emphases with the culture." Do we have to "stoop" to the level of culture to reach it? Paul, in 1 Cor 1-2, seemed specifically to be avoiding certain aspects of the culture so as not to render the gospel void, and so as not to convince people by the "turn of a phrase."

    Again, not sure how all these applies, but it should inform us somewhat, I think.
     
  16. TomVols

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    Right again, Pastor Larry. We are not to avoid hard words. But there's a big difference in using a word straight from the pages of a solid Bible translation than using language from the streets of our towns and the late night TV programs. It's fine to be culturally relevant (the Bible will do that for you quite nicely by itself) but do we have to go to the verbal gutters of our culture to make a connection?

    Using Hosea as a generic example, I'd even go so far as to say "prostitute" or "harlot" would be preferable to "whore", etc., because you may have some kids in there who may not be discerning. We can avoid coarse language and still be vivid. The person who has to resort to coarsities to make a point probably never had one to start with.

    This is by no means directed at anyone here. I'm just sayin.....

    By the way, I heard a preacher ask his youth girls from the pulpit if they wanted to be sluts or if they wanted to be pure. He thought he was making a great point and being "edgy" and cool. Judge for yourself.

    It's like when liberal preacher Tony Campolo used to go around preaching about social responsibility, caring for the poor. He'd say "Some of you don't give a [EXPLETIVE] about the poor!" After hearing the gasps, he'd then say something to the effect of "And some of you just proved it because you're more offended that I said the word [EXPLETIVE] than you are for me rebuking you about not caring for the poor." Is it memorable? Sure. But why go to such extremes and oddities (obsurdities, more likely) when simple expository preaching anointed by God's Spirit will do more than we can ask or think?

    Our actions say what we really believe about our theology. Don't get me started.......
     
    #16 TomVols, Jul 19, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 19, 2010
  17. Shortandy

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    Great post with a lot of food for thought.

    But where is the line and who is the judge? Larry you say slang words yet "dumb" and "screw-up" are in the dictionary. Dumb in the adverb form meaning in an idiotic, sheepish, weird, stupid or foolish manner. Is that a valid description of how a man can be at times? See Isaiah 56:10 NKJV. Screw-up had not listing in a sexual context. It means a slip or error or blunder. And don't men do those things in marriage, which was the context I used the word? There several passages with error or foolish in them. So how then is it not acceptable to use a synonym for those words while preaching?

    No expletives used. No slang. Just two strong words for emphasis. No Tony Campolo or Mark Driscoll.
     
  18. Pastor Larry

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    Me, of course, and wherever I say it is ... :D ... Seriously, obviously each has to make up his own mind within reason. But I imagine it's not as hard as perhaps the last decade or so has made it out to be. I certainly don't have all the answers, and don't want to pretend to. I have done my share of screwing up and doing dumb things, so far be it from me to lay down the law on others.

    (It's a joke and it's not in church.)

    I don't think being in the dictionary is necessary the issue. A lot of words are in the dictionary that I think don't serve the gospel well.

    Sure, and I don't have as much a problem with that so long as it is placed in the context of moral stupidity, and not intellectual stupidity or dumbness, kind of like I described above.

    [quoteScrew-up had not listing in a sexual context.[/quote]But in common usage, it is one of the connotations of it. Again, I have said it in private counseling or conversation. Perhaps in a more informal men's Bible study. I wouldn't say it in a regular service or in mixed company because of the connotations.

    Why not just use error or foolish? Or sin? making a mess of our lives? Or messing things up? Or blowing up your marriage? Or some such? I can think of tons of words that don't have any hint of impropriety or foolish speech hidden in them.

    Without directing this to you specifically, I think it is telling how much coarse speech has become common place. Any more, I am somewhat hesitant to listen to the radio with my four year old son in the car, or to watch TV with him because of people's language. I don't want him repeating that.

    I just tend to think we can do better than make questionable slang a feature of the pulpit.
     
    #18 Pastor Larry, Jul 19, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 19, 2010
  19. swaimj

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    I would not use the term "screw-up" from the pulpit, though, frankly, if I heard someone else use it, I don't think I'd be terribly bothered by it. The use of "screw" in this sense was reserved for the locker-room for many years in US culture. I think it came out when the Nixon tapes were released and people heard the President speaking of "screwing" his opponents and were shocked at his language. Now, in my work in car sales, I hear this term so often that it is no longer colorful to me,thouigh I don't use it myself because I am aware of its history and its connotation.

    I can certainly understand that someone could hear a preacher use it and get offended. In your case, this is what happened. I think, in your situation you need to resolve not to use the term again, from the pulpit. You need to approach the person who was offended and apologize and you probably need to apologize for the language from the pulpit. If you ever get the opportunity to come to Philly and preach, you can use the term liberally and I doubt anyone will care.
     
  20. rbell

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    Tomvols,

    Good morning!

    Gee, so you're saying it's stupid for me to screw up and say things to tick folks off? I'll probably get my hind end kicked!

    :eek: :D
     

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