Let Me Be Clear
Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. – 1 Corinthians 14:9 (NIV)
Clear communication is important when daring to invite, welcome, and assure people of God’s unshakable love … and of your own. Some dismiss this verse as a rule for speaking-in-tongues-Pentecostal communities. But it calls the church to clear, impactful communication … always.
Traditional church language has become an unknown tongue in a world in which 80 percent of 20-year-olds in America have never been to church, temple or synagogue. References like “doxology” and “the Lord’s Prayer” are foreign to most unchurched guests. And yet we think nothing of speaking this foreign language to guests in worship—something polite people aim to never do. (I write this from a train station in Cardiff, hearing instructions in both Welsh and English.)
Not knowing when to stand or sit, when to read the bulletin or screen, and trying to sing words without music or instruction, make even the “smartest” guest feel like an outsider in both traditional and contemporary communities, in person and online. Is it any wonder some guests do not return? Why give up a Sunday morning to be in a place that makes you feel inadequate, unwanted, outside, and confused—and perhaps never greeted? What do our actions communicate about God and church?
Giving advice to younger clergy on the 50th anniversary of his ordination, a retired minister said, “Every time you stand to break open God’s word, remember that someone’s life may depend on what you say or do not say. Prepare well and be clear.”
Gracious God we are unaware of many of our assumptions. Open our hearts. Forgive us, please. Help us embody your extravagant love and grace with people we encounter today, including those closest to us. May the Holy Spirit be clear when we fail and forget. Amen.
Ron Buford contributed this devotional (adapted for length) to OMG: Devotionals for Teens and Young Adults, a perfect gift for confirmation, graduation, or just because. Order OMG here OMG: Devotionals for Teens and Young Adults.