Redeeming How We Talk

Ken Wytsma and A.J. Swoboda: Discover How Communication Fuels Our Growth, Shapes Our Relationships, and Changes Our Lives

Redeeming How We Talk
Discover How Communication Fuels Our Growth, Shapes Our Relationships, and Changes Our Lives
(Moody Publishers, 2018)

WHO: Ken Wytsma, president of Kilns College and founder of The Justice Conference, and A.J. Swoboda, a professor at Portland and Fuller Seminaries.

THEY SAY: Words are central to the calling of Christian faith, ministry, and witness. With words we write, preach, and teach. Language is spiritual.”

THE BIG IDEA: Words have the power to create, to encourage, to build up—and to destroy, to tear down, to wound. This book explores what the Bible has to say about the central aspect of life and relationships—conversation.

THE PROGRESSION:
Part 1, “The World of Words,” Examines how technology has made it easier to communicate but it doesn’t help us to connect. Looking at theology, history, and philosophy encourages us to reclaim the holiness of human speech.
Part 2, “The Words of God,” looks at what Jesus had to say, wisdom and words, how we hear one another and the power of a good word.

“There was nothing. Then there were words Then there was everything.”

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A CONVERSATION WITH A.J. SWOBODA

What are some ways we can exert a positive influence on our communities through words?

The ability to communicate with words is an incredible gift from God. Words allow us to resolve disputes without resorting to violence, but beyond the merely mitigating conflict, words allow us to bless. In Ephesians 4:29, Paul writes, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Here we discover that our words are powerful; they have the capacity to “build up.” Therefore, we must focus on the good of others’ before we speak. Sometimes this may result in verbally blessing others, at other times it may require a sincere apology, or the sharing of good news. When the other’s good is in focus when we speak, community is “built up.”

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For pastors and ministry leaders, their words can be very encouraging or very damaging, so they need to think before they speak. What filters should they run what they are going to say through?

Followers of Jesus, not least leaders in the church, should ask themselves if what they are about to offer will bring healing or harm, or if their words will turn someone toward or away from Christ. Secondly, we should consider how our speech might be framed to best open an honest dialogue. Lastly, we must evaluate our actions to check that they match our words, and bring them into line when we discover that they do not.

Technology has vastly changed how we communicate–and how messages are received and interpreted. What advice do you have for churches involved in social media?

While social media has many detrimental effects upon individuals and communities, it can also serve as a useful tool when used appropriately. The best thing churches and church leaders can do in response to our rapidly changing technology is to dedicate space for in person interaction.

Conversational spaces are created when we meet to share a meal or when we show up at the hospital to visit someone in need. Technology can’t replace presence, but as we meet together in person (and without distractedly looking at smartphones), we are reminded that we are people—beings created in the image of God.