Non-Verbal Communication

Excerpt from Psalm 19

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of God’s hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.  They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.  Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world.”   (NIV)

Reflection by Kenneth L. Samuel

Dr. Fred Craddock, my homiletics professor in seminary, used to tell us often: “Preach Christ.  Use words if you have to.” 

The import of Dr. Craddock’s directive was to help us, as young preachers, to understand the limitations of language.  He was really pointing us to the value of communication beyond words; trying to help us see that words alone, no matter how articulate, can never fully express experiences with the Divine.

Sometimes we preach by our mere presence with persons in crisis.  No words can adequately explain or completely console the situation of those who suffer, but our presence with them at those times of distress speaks volumes.  Sometimes in visiting the infirm and the disconsolate, we minister much more by listening than by speaking.  Sometimes a simple gesture of concern for someone who feels forgotten or neglected says more than an entire sermon or lecture series on compassion and community.

The Psalmist says that “the heavens declare the glory of God.”  Without words, they convey to us the grandeur and the amazing grace of God.  Beyond language, they speak to us about the awesome details of God’s care for the human family.  The very resiliency and consistency of the natural order communicates the faithfulness of God’s relentless love without verbal expression.  Even in the context of natural disaster, when a terrible hurricane had ravaged the main characters in her novel, leaving them  speechless, Zora Neale Hurston asserts: “Their eyes were watching God.” 

Someone asked Jesus: “How much do you love me?”  Jesus said nothing.  He stretched out his nail-scarred hands, hung his head and died on an old rugged cross.  What more can be said?


“Dear God, even if we had 10,000 tongues, we could not fully express your glory and your goodness.  Thank you for communication beyond words.  Amen.”

About the Author
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.

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