the shape of leadership

The Power of a Pastor’s Words

People are listening when you talk

Chris Colvin on March 4, 2021

Our words matter. As a pastor, your words may even matter more. That’s because there is a particular power behind them. Whether we like to admit it or not, people in our churches look to their pastors’ words as the final say-so in a number of instances.

Just think about the emails or calls you received this week. How many of them began with “Pastor, what do you think about this?” The advice congregants are looking for ranges from theological instruction to relational tips. I’ve even known pastors having lunch with business executives seeking help with major decisions.

I encountered the power of a pastor’s word in my first position as a youth minister. Part of my shared responsibility was making announcements on Sunday mornings. Our executive pastor made a point one time that we should select a special announcement each week for our senior pastor to give because everyone listened when he talked.

People are listening when you talk. And that means you have power in your words. With that power comes a responsibility you shouldn’t shirk. Rather than manipulate, though, you can use that power to help your church grow.

Here are five ways you can leverage the power of the pastor’s words for maximum Kingdom benefit:

Be Bold

Don’t be afraid of the power you hold as a pastor. That means you can’t deny your words matter. Instead, be bold about proclaiming truth.

You need to know the truth, first of all. When you are bold, make sure you’ve done your homework. Does what you say line-up with Scripture? Does it make sense according to the experts? What do those who disagree with you say?

One way to make sure you are confident about what you say is by following this line of advice: Be bold where the Bible is bold, be slow where the Bible is silent. There are plenty of places where the Bible very strongly warns us, encourages us, or proclaims to us. There are also places where the advice seems a bit more silent. Know the difference and don’t confuse them.

Speak Out for Those Who Can’t

As a pastor, your words can be the words of others as well. You have the right to share your platform. But who should you speak out for?

Proverbs 31:8 tells us to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” In other words, the most marginalized in our world may need an amplifier from the Church. This includes racial minorities, those stuck in a cycle of poverty, and the unborn.

When you speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves, your not only empowering them. You also strengthen your own church. You are providing a window into the world that many of your regular attenders may not know about, and they now have a way to help those less fortunate. So make sure you provide guidance for activism along with that voice.

When we use our voices in love, we are mindful of Jesus’ love for us.

Be Measured in Your Endorsements

What you say can sway your people. So be careful how you comment on certain persons, places or establishments.

For instance, you may get a phone call about a certain person in your church who has applied for a job, particularly in ministry. Have you spent enough time with that individual to vouch for their character and competence? It’s easy to start lavishing praise on a member of your church without verifying it. But your word will be the foundation another minister uses for trust.

When we think of endorsements from the pulpit, your mind may go to political parties or politicians. But there are plenty of other ways you can endorse someone or something on Sunday. For instance, have you ever recommended a restaurant in the middle of a sermon? Sounds easy enough. But why are you doing it? Make sure you have a goal in mind.

First of all, is there anyone in your church with a similar business? They may be offended by the endorsement of a competitor. On the other hand, if you are trying to build a relationship with a non-believing business owner, a recommendation for your congregation to frequent the establishment may be a great step towards encouraging the owner to attend church.

Be Slow to Share Personal Details

In the middle of a message, it’s easy to stray from your notes and start sharing from the heart. In those moments, make sure you don’t share too much. The best way to do that is to get permission every time you share a story about someone in your church.

A powerful testimony of God’s transformation is a great way to motivate others. However, it may shine a light on an area that individual wishes to keep private. So make sure even the most mundane stories get clearance beforehand.

The biggest issue I see with pastors is sharing about their own families. Pastors spend so much time with their families that it’s an easy and available reservoir of stories and illustrations. However, when you put yourself in the shoes of your spouse or children, you might see where sharing too much becomes a burden.

Even a good story can make your family members feel violated since people now feel like they know them better than they do and approach them in that vein.

Share with Love

Finally, knowing your words have power means you need to wield it well. Love is the best way to balance each of your words.

Before sharing, ask yourself if something definitely needs to be shared. Are you doing it for the right reasons? Can people tell that you love them when you talk about it? Even the worst news can be shared with the best heart.

When we use our voices in love, we are mindful of Jesus’ love for us. First and foremost is His message of love. Jesus' words were sometimes harsh and difficult to hear. But they were always given with the desire to bring us closer to God. In whatever you say, may that be said of you as well.

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