We sat down with Network Worship Pastor Mike Price and Oviedo Worship Pastor Kyle Carden to talk about the power of words and Grace Church’s purposeful approach to language.
Both of you think deeply about language in your work and within your realms of influence. Why are words so important?
Kyle: The truth is, in all of life, words are formative. The things that we say about ourselves and others become the things we believe. That’s why we don’t say terrible things to our children – or allow them to say terrible things about themselves – because negative self-talk is formative.
From a church perspective, we could say “terminology becomes theology.” The things we say – especially the things we repeat – will shape how people view God before we ever sit down to talk with them about Him.
How is Grace Church intentional with words?
Mike: As we consider the words that come from our platform and even the words that we distribute, we’re always considering one – how is this going to be perceived from all walks of life, and then two – what are we trying to teach? Are these words going to heal? Are they going to bring life and hope? Or are they going to bring confusion and dissent? Are they words our people need in this moment or for this season?
And that consideration goes into choosing songs, writing confessions, discussing the text as our pastors prepare a sermon series – we’re always thinking about language.
And I feel like there’s also a level of accountability across teams where we’ll have conversations like, “Hey, why did you choose that word? What if we say it like this instead of like that?”
How can the average person grow in becoming more intentional with words?
Mike: I think a virtue that’s valued across the board is thinking before you speak. Just pausing to consider the impact of your words can eliminate an overly emotive response. You know, the kind of response that ends up hurting when maybe you were just trying to make a correction. Or you end up damaging a relationship when your goal was actually to bring harmony.
Kyle: Having a plan in advance is also helpful. For example, with my kids, I know in advance that even when they’re behaving terribly, I’m not going to tell them they’re being terrible because they will hear me saying, “You are terrible.” And they’ll internalize that, even though what I mean is, “Your behavior right now is terrible.” So I don’t even use that word. I don’t use the word “bad.” Instead I say, “Let’s make better choices; let’s make wise choices.”
You have to think ahead because in the moment, if you don’t have a plan, you’ll just go off the rails. And that’s true in every relationship, whether with your kids, spouse, boss, or friends.
Let’s talk about social media. What principles guide you as you think about posting words publicly?
Mike: Any time we’re talking words, I always go back to James 3. Words can bring life, but they can also take it. As Christians, we have the content to bring life – the gospel – which is what our text this week in Romans talks about (Romans 10:14-21). Who is going to hear unless we bring the gospel to them? We have this good news – these words of life – so do we wield them well? Or do we wield them recklessly?
Social media can be used for good, but I think so often it’s used as a way of recklessly critiquing those with different viewpoints, which just ends up being destructive from all angles, regardless of whether or not you’re “right.” Context gets lost in social media settings. So I feel like erring on the side of building up, encouraging, and empowering is how social media can be beneficial.
Kyle: And practically speaking, you can’t just type and hit “enter.” That’s like running off the mouth with someone you care about. It’s damaging because you can’t take it back. Apologies are hard to give on social media. I rarely check social media, but I would never post anything that I didn’t first walk away from and then come back to.
Mike: Yeah, we don’t want to lose credibility. If we’re called to represent the gospel in our proclamation, but then the rest of our life is death and destruction on social media or in our relationships, our gospel proclamation is negated because everything else overshadows it. It’s a form of misalignment.
Kyle: That makes me think of the verse that says, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). We’re telling a story with our language, whether it’s beautiful or it’s painful and divisive. And people will always be able to tell where our hearts are based on our language.