My Advice for Cussing Preachers
Lately there has been a very small number of preachers making the news for their use of coarse language in the pulpit. This is a relatively rare phenomenon as far as I know, and perhaps not new at all. My hunch is that over the centuries there have always been cussing preachers here and there, but one factor that makes it different these days is that the use of technology can spread their influence farther and faster than ever before. It is important to think through this issue since Bible teachers will be judged more strictly (James 3:1). With that said, here is my advice for cussing preachers:
And now that you have that little nugget of wisdom, here’s why.
- It’s a sin. Ephesians 4:29 says it clearly “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
- It sets a poor example. Christian leaders are supposed to set a good example for their people to follow. Cussing in preaching does not fit that category. In fact, it is an especially harmful example since there is no other time that a person should be more prepared for what they are about to say than when they are preaching. What does it show your people that you cuss during a prepared talk? What would your language be like if your temper caught you off guard? Yikes!
- It exposes a spiritual deficiency. Jesus said in Luke 6:45 that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” In other words, what you say is simply exposing who you really are. Your bad language is signalling for you that something is wrong with your heart that needs to be corrected.
- It’s not clever or hip. I think most cussing preachers use poor language to try and seem relevant to young, non church-goers. Perhaps it seems to “work” because it can draw an audience and get a laugh. But don’t fool yourself into thinking you can make Christianity more palatable by making it seem cool. Carl Trueman points out the obvious when he says “You really do kid only yourselves if you think you can be an orthodox Christian and be at the same time cool enough and hip enough to cut it in the wider world. Frankly, in a couple of years it will not matter how much urban ink you sport, how much fair trade coffee you drink, how many craft brews you can name, how much urban gibberish you spout [emphasis mine], how many art house movies you can find that redeemer figure in, and how much money you divert from gospel preaching to social justice…”
- It undermines your ministry. If the goal of foul-mouthed preaching is to exert more influence on people for Christ, realize that by cussing you are sapping power from the very goal you wish to achieve. Don’t confuse the size of your following with the strength of your influence. A crowd like that is more interested in shock-value than the penetrating truth of God’s Word.
- It’s childish. Little kids on the playground use filthy language. Grown adults should not. Yes, I realize that it is normal even among adults, but should we embrace that? Especially as Christians? I’ve always found it annoying when people use foul language; to me it’s immature. You’re an adult – learn how to use the English language in a more effective way. Get a bigger vocabulary.
- You are going beyond what Scripture says. In defense, some will point out that the Bible itself sometimes uses provocative language. This is true. However, these instances – Paul calling his phony religion “dung” or “feces” in Philippians 3:8, the repetitive use of “whore” to describe idolatry in Ezekiel, the veiled yet powerful sexual imagery in Song of Solomon – are rare in the grand scope of the Bible and are shocking but not crass. Use powerful language where the Bible uses powerful language, but use the words the Bible uses and stay within that range.
- You’re displaying a false humility. Sometimes a preacher won’t swear but say that they almost did. Recently, in reference to the Philippians 3:8 passage above, I heard one preacher say “Paul calls his religious accomplishments dung. He calls it feces. And I’m not allowed to say the other word I’m thinking.” You don’t have to let us know you almost cursed. You might as well have, because us knowing you were thinking it is not much different from hearing you say it. Instead, try not to think like that and if you do, keep it to yourself.
For more on use of language, see Psalm 19:14, Proverbs 4:24, Colossians 3:8, Matthew 15:11, Ephesians 5:4.