Interpersonal Leadership: Communication
“Biblical Guidance for Communications”
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 7.3
- Interpersonal Communications
1. Biblical Terms
“Communication,” as such, is not normally the translation of a biblical
term. However, the principles, experiences, and practices of interpersonal communication
are expressed in rich and varied terms across the pages of Scripture. This article
introduces carefully selected common terms such as “mouth,”
“tongue,” “lips,” “speech,”
“word,” etc. The Psalmist sets our theme and commitment.
Psalm 19:14 (NIV)--May the words of my mouth and the
meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
The way in which the Bible constantly uses the organ of speech in the
sense of "language" is a good example of the employment of the concrete
for the abstract. . . . So to receive a message is to have words put into
the mouth. . . . Finally, the mouth is personified; it is an independent agent.
It brings freewill offerings (Ps 119:108). God sets a watch before it (141:3);
it selects food (Prov 15:14), uses a rod (14:3), and has a sword (Rev 19:15).
. . . --NIV Bible Dictionary, Zondervan
. . . . The figurative uses of the word are interesting. The tongue of
the just is a treasure (Prov 10:20; 12:18) and a mark of wisdom (Isa 50:4);
it is like a bow (Jer 9:3), an arrow (9:8), and a lash (18:18). The miracle
at Pentecost included "tongues of fire" (Acts 2:3). The tongue is
little but can do great things (James 3:5, 8).
--NIV Bible Dictionary, Zondervan
2. Communication: Biblical Guidance
Biblical guidance in communication may be pursued in several ways. Let me suggest
- Simply let the Bible fall open and point to a “magical verse.”
There are times you may have felt desperate enough to try that, but it just
- By careful Bible study or reflection, discover exactly how you should communicate
in a given situation. That “guidance approach” is approximately
- Valuable on any and every occasion is the permeation and penetration of
biblical wisdom displayed in Ps. 19:14.
Now, let us examine specific biblical guidance texts about our communication:
- Praise the Lord-- “I will extol the Lord at
all times; his praise will always be on my lips.” Ps. 34:1 (see
also Ps. 19:14; James 3:9)
- Speak the truth; don’t lie-- “You shall
not give false testimony against your neighbor.” Ex. 20:16 (see
also Prov. 10:31; 18:4)
- Build up others-- “Do not let any unwholesome
talk come out of your months, but only what is helpful for building others
up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Eph. 4:29 (see also Prov. 18:21; 22:10-11)
- Do no harm-- “The tongue that brings healing
is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”
Prov. 15:4 (see also Rom. 3:13; Col. 3:8; James 3:6-11; 1 Pet. 3:10-11)
- Control your tongue-- “Set a guard over my mouth,
O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Ps. 141:3 (see also
James 1:19-20, 26)
- Keep it simple-- “Simply let your ‘Yes’
be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything
beyond this comes from the evil one.” Matt. 5:37 (see also Prov.
- Speak from the heart-- “You brood of vipers,
how can you who are evil say any thing good? For out of the overflow of the
heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored
up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in
him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment
for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted,
and by your words you will be condemned.” Matt. 12:34-37
- Pick your time-- “A man finds joy in giving
an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!” Prov. 15:23
- Try silence-- “Even a fool is thought wise if
he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” Prov.
- Walk your talk-- “Dear children, let us not
love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John
3:18 (see also Col. 4:6; James 2:18)
3. Communication Afterthought
In addition to biblical principles and practices, scholars have restated and
applied principles of communication for everyday life and work. Consider these
four (see also 7.3 CD-ROM Support Materials, Unit 2):
- Inescapable-- because we live in a social, independent
- Irreversible--because communication is a dynamic system
that does not leave things the same.
- Complicated--because two or more persons communicating
are complex and diverse in understanding and background.
- Contextual--because the event or stream of communication
has a unique situation in life.
Wiio’s Laws-- To Keep Us on the Alert:
Osmo Wiio gives us some communication maxims similar to Murphy’s law:
- If communication can fail, it will.
- If a message can be understood in different ways, it will be understood
in just that way which does the most harm.
- There is always somebody who knows better than you what you meant by
- The more communication there is, the more difficult it is for communication
from Wiio's Laws--and Some Others, Osmo Wiio
4. For Reflection/Assessment/Application
- Re-read the biblical texts above, reflecting on each text and how it may
affect your interpersonal communication as a minister/leader.
- Relate these truths to other communication articles and/or your leadership
functions; write up your own biblical guidance for communication, starting
with “I will seek to follow biblical guidance in my communication,”
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For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at www.servantleaderstoday.com
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership