At Jesus Community, Ted M. Gossard has been writing about slowing down.In his post “the goal of slowing down (in my case),” Ted said that his life has been full of words, that they spill out of him easily…sometimes too easily. He wrote:
Lately valuing silence more (or really at all) means I tend to be more silent. Less words. The goal is not to diminish and belittle the importance of words…The goal is to realize the goal stated in the Book: to know God better, to be in closer communion with God and with those in Jesus, as well as to share this love with all people.
To achieve his biblical goals of knowing and loving God and knowing and loving people, Ted is slowing down his words…speaking less…falling silent.I remember attending a leadership conference at Willow Creek years ago (so long ago it was still called a “Pastors Conference,” though church leaders were invited to attend, as well).John Ortberg gave a message, but I skipped it because it was geared for pastors. Afterward, everyone was talking about it. Several of my friends attended his session, and I remember what they said about Ortberg’s message better than anything else from the conference.He said (and I paraphrase from their paraphrase from about 15 years ago) that pastors are word people—they use words all the time as a natural outgrowth of giftedness, of ministry, of life. The same words that can minister, however, can also be a source of trouble. Word-people can sin with words, deeply wounding people intentionally or unintentionally.Ortberg’s solution was very simple: talk less.In fact, if I recall correctly, I think he may have actually said: “Shut up.”By speaking less and letting our words be few, the words we do speak become more powerful and (hopefully) meaningful.That’s come up again and again in my life.My in-laws speak very little. In fact, it’s hard to engage them in conversation. I’ve often wondered why they remain so quiet. Because they live in Belgium, I’m not with them often enough to observe them in a lot of different situations, but not long ago they were visiting and I got a clue.They said something about the Bible encouraging us not to speak much. They mentioned a verse. Quietly. Honestly, I didn’t hear what they said. This is not a joke.It may have been Ecclesiastes 5:2:
Do not be quick with your mouth,do not be hasty in your heartto utter anything before God.God is in heavenand you are on earth,so let your words be few.
Or maybe it was Ephesians 4:29:
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.
In any case, their default mode is to let their words be few…to say little…to listen. And when they speak, they hope and pray that their words are helpful for building others up according to their needs.Ted M. Gossard, John Ortberg, King Solomon, the Apostle Paul and my in-laws remind me to let my words be few…to slow down my words…speak less…and fall silent…to listen.And when I do speak, to speak only what is helpful for building others up.This goes for writing, as well.In silence, I can listen. And by listening, I hope to not only speak but also to write only what is helpful for building others up.
God is in heavenand I am on earth,so let my words be few.