What not to say to a preacher after the service:
“I don’t care what they say, I like your sermons.”
“Pastor, you always manage to say something to fill up the time.”
“If I had known you were going to be good today, I would have brought my neighbor.”
“We really shouldn’t make you preach so often.”
“Hey did you know that there are 234 panes of glass in the windows.”
Those were never said to me. The closest comment (I know I shared this in a past epistle) after I preached once as a youth pastor a man came up to me and said, “Someday, you are going to make a good pastor.” Someday? He meant well as he clarified it later to say, “A good senior pastor.”
Words are powerful. Proverbs 18:21 tells us they have the power of life and death. Life words and death words. I have been on the receiving end of both. I have spoken both. I know of times that my words breathed life into someone and regrettably, I know of times my words crushed the spirits of another.
Often the issue is one of timeliness. Again, a proverb speaks to this. “A man finds joy in giving an apt reply and how good is a timely word.” Timely words are life words. And in order for my words to be timely it means I must take the time to listen to what it is the other person really needs not what I think they need, based on limited information.
My mind goes to Job’s “friends.” It wasn’t what they said as much as when they felt they needed to say it. If you read through some of their speeches, there were some words of truth in what they said. The problem was timeliness. The problem was that they didn’t consider what it was Job needed at that time. Did Job need pat answers? Did he need someone to fix the problem? He had just lost his farming animals, most of his hired workers, all his kids, and physically was in tremendous pain. And his wife even turned on him.
Even though his friends had intended to come alongside of him to comfort and sympathize with him (Job 2:11), when they opened their mouths, things only got worse for Job. Their verbal put-downs, wrong assumptions, and shame-based counsel must have stung! All Job’s “comforting” friends had to offer were shallow and hurtful words, that brought him no relief. They were death not life words.
Who needs some life words right now? Know someone who is wounded and needs a touch of grace? Or a weary soul that needs some hope? A grieving heart that needs comfort? Perhaps your timely word, isn’t a word at all, but a listening ear.
Joseph Bayly wrote from a personal time of grief in his life, “I was sitting, torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God’s dealings, of why it happened. He talked constantly. He said things I knew were true. I was unmoved. Another came and sat beside me. He didn’t talk. He just sat beside me for an hour, listened when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply, left. I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go.”
Blessings, Pastor Brian