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If You Use Words, This Is For You…

May 15, 2013

I’ve been studying a lot about leadership lately. What works. What doesn’t. What the Bible highlights as important for leaders to know.

And it’s not just helping me in my ministry leadership role.

The leadership lessons I’m learning are helping me in every role. Because honestly, most of us have influence in some sphere of our life. When we influence, we lead. And when we lead, we have a great responsibility to grow.

We can’t lead others further than where we’ve grown ourselves.

Stunt our growth, and we stunt our leadership.

So, I’m setting aside intentional time to learn and grow as a leader.

One of my favorite leaders to study in the Bible is Paul. Yesterday, I was reading the letters Paul wrote to a young man he was leading named Timothy. And I came across a section in 2 Timothy chapter two entitled, “A workman approved by God.”

I thought, this is going to be a great leadership section! Whatever Paul is about to write here is going to be pure gold. I want to know how Paul defined a workman approved by God.

Paul could have focused on many things for this section. If I was writing this section of the Bible, I would have said a good leader should be:

* Humble.
* Generous.
* A servant leader.
* Smart.
* Calm under pressure.
* A good decision maker.
* Able to recruit other good leaders.

And lots of other things as well.

But as I kept reading, I was surprised by the main topic discussed under this section entitled “A workman approved by God.”

It was on avoiding… godless chatter. Arguing. Quarrels. Foolish and stupid arguments that lead to resentment.

In other words, we must watch our words. And not just watch them, control them. Wrangle them. Boss them around. Set them straight.

Leaders must, must, must recognize what can happen when we use words the wrong way OR when we allow an environment to develop where words are used the wrong way.

The progression of warnings in this section is haltingly strong:

verse 14: “Quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.”

verse 16: “Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.”

verse 17: “Their (those that participate in godless chatter and the mishandling of words) teaching will spread like gangrene.”

The warnings continue all the way to the ultimate warning in verse 26 where we learn that it is crucial for those who are stirring up all this junk, to repent in hopes that “they will come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”


The devil has a will. And he can take us captive to do his will.

The words we speak matter.

And so do the words we think. Sometimes we can be smiling on the outside while screaming on the inside… and we think that’s more Christian. Gosh, I’m guilty of this sometimes.

But both external godless chatter and internal godless chatter can lead to dangerous places. Can corrupt our organizations. Can eat us alive from the inside out.

I think it’s worth thinking about today.

I think it’s worth talking about with those we lead. Whether it’s with our families, our circle of friends, or our staff members, …take time. Make time. To talk about how we must watch our words.

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  1. Beth

    Hi Lysa,
    I had some internal godless chatter last week at work. My outside was level and calm and I didn’t spew like I normally do but my insides were sure ranting and raving. It left me wondering if that was any better than being vocal with my emotions as I have been in the past. Now I know that it wasn’t. My weekend was an awful one and sad to say it was mother’s day weekend too. And you right, it does eat you alive.
    I read your Unglued book last year, and have started to read it again. I just started Wendy Blight’s online bible study and after this past week/weekend I think it really applies.
    By the way, you are a great author! I love your books and the humor in them is awesome. You have such an excellent way of relating to so many of us average mommies. 🙂

    • Lysa TerKeurst

      Thank you Beth… your encouragement is a sweet gift!

  2. Rebecca

    What a wonderful message! This is something I needed to hear! I am the “sponsor” for high school student led ministry. This summer, I’m taking the student leaders through leadership training and I definitely think this will be something I use. Please let me know of any other resources that you would deem appropriate for this age group. I was thinking about using Catalyst as well.

    Thanks for your encouragement! 🙂

    • Lysa TerKeurst

      Yes, The Catalyst Leader by Brad Lomenick is a great one to consider. Also, listen to some of Andy Stanley’s leadership teachings. My team and I just listened to his teaching called “Systems.” It’s great!

  3. Christy Fitzwater

    I’m going to have to meditate on this today. THANKS!! From someone who writes and speaks.

    • Lysa TerKeurst

      Thanks Christy… yes, I think this is the kind of Scripture that needs time to really sink all the way in.

  4. Shannon

    I have been convicted of my tongue so now I’m thinking before speaking. In addition, I do smile outside and my inside is screaming. I just don’t like showing my emotions due to that they have heard the story enough about my issue or call me oversensitive so I put the walls up and put a smile on my face but all I want to do is hide and cry sometimes but than I think of Jesus who died, shed blood for us to save us sinners. Than I tell myself stop complaining but some days you just have to “Walk by Faith, not by sight” 2 Corinthians 5:7 and For I know the plans I have for you to prosper you and not to harm and a future of hope. Jeremiah 29:11 I live on those verses…

    • Lysa TerKeurst

      Great verses Shannon. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Dawn Wilson

    I know this is a post about the tongue, but something else reached out and grabbed my thoughts. “The devil has a will.” I wonder if we really get that. So thankful that in the battle of the wills, Jesus wins … and when I surrender to the Spirit of God, I can too. Thanks for always challenging our thinking with such creativity, Lysa. Your words matter.

    • Lysa TerKeurst

      Thanks Dawn… I write what I need to read. God has lots of lessons to teach me:)

  6. Danielle R

    Lysa, Would you share the names of the resources you are using to research leadership. I am the director of small group ministries at my church and am always looking for new resources on leadership.

    In regards to your blog today I find that I am guilty of both godless outside chatter as well as inside. I know that I don’t concider it as bad when I think those thoughts because I tell myself “Well at least I did not say that out loud “. Wow the devil truly is working there. Thank you for your daily posts Lysa. I look forward to reading them daily. You are a blessing to me.

  7. Latosha

    Lysa, thank you for breaking this down through scripture. I spend alot of time using words in writing as well and have to make sure how my written words come across as well as when I speak.

  8. Esther

    Really learning to control that inside chatter is so important! I’ve been so guilty of continuing conversation when the other person is long gone. This is especially true in my home, the place I need to be the best leader possible 🙂

    • Beth

      I am guilty of that as well. Like for example, I think oh I should have said this, or I should have said that, I wonder how the convo would have gone if I made this point instead and so on and so on. I rehash everything and sometimes I will admit I catch myself wishing I could have said a well placed, not so nice zinger!

  9. Tammy

    Lysa, your writings, teachings are such a gift! This spoke to me on so many levels,
    still processing. I have shared with many believers and non believers this morning,
    Thank you for letting God use your every day moments, to encourage the rest of us.

  10. Julie Sunne

    Powerful and convicting, Lysa. I love the way Scripture captures our attention and reveals unexpected truths.

  11. Jill Beran

    Lysa, this post ties in with what God has had on my heart and actually just shared about on my blog. I’ve been digging into the idea of mentoring (which is a type of leadership I believe) and God recently showed me how often it just happens, quite frequently with our words. When we are sharing or listening to good words, the Godly ones, that’s a good thing, but how often do we speak ones that are not sending the message we long to teach? Thanks for sharing this and allowing God to continue to speak to me about the words I say! Blessings to you!!

  12. alison

    good point about the internal godless chatter. so much harder to stop or be aware of !

  13. Jodie Pentak

    My husband has written a great book on leadership called “The Way of the Shepherd”. I think you will find it very entertaining yet thought provoking 🙂
    Just wanted to also add that I’ve read several of your books and participated in several bible studies you’ve written and i’ve always always enjoyed them so much! thanks for sharing your life with total strangers and being authentic!


  14. Michele

    Thanks for these “words” of emcouragement Lysa! I shared this on my FB page and I hope it benefits all who read it. I know that it certainly made me more aware of things that I sometimes say or think!! Thank you for all that you do!! : )

  15. tara

    My husband is on staff with a strategic partner church of Northpoint Community Church. We are located in Athens, GA, and our teaching pastor is Andy Stanley. Our campus pastor in Athens worked at Northpoint for years before planting our church in Athens. He is a wonderful leader, and he has cultivated an environment for our staff to be wonderful leaders. One of the things he holds close is an environment of trust over suspicion. He believes in keeping short accounts, and there just isn’t room for godless chatter.

    We’ve worked in three other ministries in 15 years of ministry, and we are blown away and so encouraged by the leadership we are sitting under in this ministry/organization. blown away!
    It has been two years since we were hired, and I can’t tell you the development that my husband has had the honor of having in his role here.

    It starts at the top. Our leaders make ALL the difference. I have been so sharpened as a staff spouse….and I’m so thankful.

  16. Angie Dixon

    Wow, you’re so right, this is about so much more than good leadership. This is so important to simple godly living. John is my favorite book of the bible & he immediately starts off by telling us that Jesus was the Word since the beginning of time that actually gave us life & light. In reading your post I realize that I’ve missed some truth to this all along. I know better than to gossip still I do because it seems almost trivial & there are so many BIGGER things I need to work on. But this IS huge! I want Christ to live through me, but how can He if at the same time I’m letting the devil hold me captive. How can others see the wonderful difference that Jesus is if the devil is using me to do his will? You’ve given me some good stuff to think about!

  17. Toni Turley

    Hi Lysa, I’m Toni. I wanted to share with you something incredible that God is doing in my life. My Sunday School class is doing your study, “What Happens Why Women Say Yes To God” and I can say with great excitement that I’m now a woman who said Yes to God.
    A few years ago (back in 2006), I felt like God was placing on my heart to start saving change that I would find on the ground and use it for Him. I told a few of my friends that I was doing a Bible study with. We saved some change for a little while, but it didn’t amount to much. Our little bible study group ended and so did the idea. I eventually said, what’s the point, I even questioned if God really laid it on my heart.
    This year, a new ministry was started in my church, called the 2nd Mile Ministry. This Ministry goes out in our community and serves as a mission would, but on a smaller scale, locally. I wanted to be a part of this new ministry.
    Shortly after I joined this ministry, the thought came back to me to start collecting lost change and use it for this new ministry. I found 1 penny that day. I was so excited. I prayed that God would direct me on what He wanted to focus to be, what was I to call this, etc. God laid it on my heart to call it FCFC, Found Change For Christ, and focus on the found part. He reminded me that I was once lost, but He found me and changed me from the inside out.
    I presented this to my small group, and they all loved the idea. Then I felt like God was calling me to present this to my church. You don’t understand, I got weak in the knees just at the thought of getting up in front of a church with around 150-200 people on most Sundays. But, I my Sunday School class was on chapter one of the Bible study. I didn’t want to be like Moses who said here am I Lord, but send someone else. I wanted to say Yes to God.
    I was at the dirt bike track watching my son practice riding his dirt bike a few weeks later. I started writing down all my thoughts about the FCFC, and thought if all else fails, I can just read straight from my notes when I get up in front of the church. When we started loading up to go home, I looked down and under the trailer a little, was a quarter, dime, and a penny. I was so excited that God was confirming what He wanted me to do.
    When I got home that day, another woman in my small group text me a picture and said look what I found today. It was a quarter, a dime, and a penny. We were so excited.
    About a couple weeks later, I got up in front of my church and told them this same story. I was told I did a good job, I have no idea, because it was as if God was speaking through me. Later that day, I worked on a logo for the FCFC the rest of that day.
    My pastor told me that he felt like this was how God was going to supply the 2nd Mile Ministry. He said “you’ll be surprised at not only the change people will bring in, but also the dollars”. I had my doubts about the dollars, until a week later. I had already told God that whatever I find I was going to give it to Him. Any area in my home, car, along the road, sidewalk, etc. So a week later, I got up and put on a jacket that I hadn’t had on in a while. I stuck my hand in my pocket, and to my surprise, a $20 dollar bill was in there. I said “I’m giving this to God today”. I went up to the church and put my found money in the containers that we set up in the church. That same morning, another woman told me about a man in our church. He was out with his metal detector, and found a whole jar of change buried. I was on cloud 9. I could see how God was already providing for this new ministry. Later that same day, I was at the dirt bike track with my son and family. I had thrown trash away in a trash can all day. When we were about to leave, I through one last empty bottle away in that trash can. I noticed someone had placed a newspaper right on top of the trash. There sticking out of the side of that newspaper was what looked like a $1 dollar bill. I first thought it was a joke. I took the money and stuck it in my pocket. I went over to my family to tell them the unbelievable story. I pulled the money out of my pocket, and it was not only $! dollar bill, but a $5 dollar bill and 2- $1 dollar bills. I truly felt the presence of God all around me.
    I am just so excited to being able to have the courage to say “yes” to God. I know I’m not the only person who has ever thought about giving change to God, but this is what God called me to do at my church. I think what has been holding back, was the fact that someone else may have already thought of something, or the fact that someone else has done something better. I know now that I don’t have to compare myself to others. I just have to be obedient to do what God calls me to do.
    Sorry, this story is a little longer than I intended and it doesn’t have anything to do with your subject on this Blog. I just wanted you to know what God has done in my life thanks to your bible study. Funny thing is we are only on chapter 4, lol.
    Thanks for your time.

    • Jill Beran

      Toni, Thank you for taking the time to share your story! It’s blessed me today and encouraged me as well. What a great, faithful God we serve!

  18. Donna

    I am guilty of tallking before i’ve considered what at i’m saying. Thank you for this blog, Lysa. I appreciate the instruction

  19. Melinda

    Wow… So timely, although I feel The Lord has been bringing this very sin to light more recently for me. My mouth was purposed for encouragement but I so often find myself allowing all my thoughts to spew. I feel the ugliness of my words and thoughts as they tumble out in front of me revealing my heart. Despite my repentance, it only takes a moment of rebellion in my heart and I easily and almost soothingly sink back into this particular wickedness. Thankful for truth, for His Spirit that rebukes me and for Gods continued sanctification through His grace covers me, every day.

  20. Susan Tishendorf

    Hi Lysa, Thank you for this! It is just what I needed. Last Friday I let a headache & frustration get the better of me in a meeting and am afraid my communication was godless. Tomorrow I meet with the same people and have been praying that I can “make amends” and to turn my godless chatter into God filled communication. Thank you again! Love & “Son”shine, Susan

  21. Loca Deb

    This was a good vitamin this morning. In my opinion the spin cycle that we often get caught in is not the repenting we are genuine. It is that the other party continues with same actions or words as if you two have never talked or we repent and expect God to make them quit behaving or talking that way. We hand the power over to the other party and continue to head around the same corner in a sometimes vicious spin cycle. Then we reach a point of what is the difference between judging an accountability? So no action gets taken and then there is an elephant in the room permanently. Suggestions….surely I’m not alone in this experience. It is beginning to seems like we are enabling narsacistic(spelling) entitled generation & I personally don’t want to be a part of doing that.

  22. Chris Carter

    Thank you for this Lysa… I am reminded that as a leader of different people in different areas in my life, I must keep His Discernment on my words. I am going to prayerfully ask God to reveal where I am failing in this area.

  23. Anna

    Thank you for allowing God to use you to speak to me.

  24. Sousa

    Thank you so much for sharing this today. A lot of times I also turn to other peploe, tv/internet, and food, to fill my needs and give me comfort when there is only One that can truly provide that deep that comfort, fill that deepest hurt/lonely place/need in my heart. Learning to lean on Him for everything is (the goal) Wow, That’s big! I’ll take that challenge. Looking forward to seeing what he does when we completely come to him!

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