one slip of the tongue

Pastors, and any public speaker for that matter, live with the pressure of knowing that one word misspoken can cost them their career. An off-color joke, a curse word, a racial slur, even something that simply appears insensitive to listeners can prove fatal. Addressing a crowd has huge responsibilities attached to it and anyone who has this task should be very aware.

I think this is becoming more of an issue as languages expand and people become more exposed to cultures around the world.

Of special concern to preachers are the increase of double entendres. These are words or phrases that have two meanings (like the title of this post). One meaning is pure and innocent, the other may be inappropriate or profane. Many times, the speaker may not be aware of the profane definition and may utilize the word(s) being unaware that some of his/her listeners are embarrassed by this language. Changing definitions are frightening. And they change rapidly. It is a terrible feeling to say something in innocence and then watch people start to giggle. So pastors have to be culturally aware, we must keep up with current language. I don’t recommend that preachers try to utilize the latest words flying around the entertainment world – this can really backfire. But I know for sure that we can’t be guilty of using a word one way and all of our listeners think about it in another way.

Let me tell you some reasons why this is becoming a larger problem:

Everything is recorded. Years ago, a pastor could say something stupid and only those in attendance would know it. Now, youtube.com is full of outtakes and bloopers. It’s every pastor’s nightmare to go viral.

In addition, there is less grace. I think that many people are looking for a reason to not trust public speakers, especially those in the church world. There is little or no benefit of the doubt. So, if a statement can be taken two ways, many people will assume the worst. Even if they know the speaker’s motives were pure, they use the faux pas as an excuse to be offended.

One more thought: many of our listeners often gain access to some of the finest public speakers and preachers in history. Some of these media preachers have teams of sermon writers and speaking coaches and make up artists and million dollar stage sets. Some of them have no responsibility other than sermon preparation. And some people who sit in our churches have just come from watching some of these world-class preachers. And they are comparing their pastor to the the TV preacher.

So, my public speaking friends – the pressure is on. You will speak maybe 2,500 words in your next public message. You’d better think them through. Every one of them. You’d better run some of the language past someone who is younger and more connected to modern culture than you. You’d better be aware that some people are hoping you mess up. And you’d better be reminded that everything you say can be used against you.

Now, who is ready to jump up there and give the next message?

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