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
only three:

  • 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
    isn’t reliable.
  • By careful Bible study or reflection, discover exactly how you should communicate
    in a given situation. That “guidance approach” is approximately
    used below.
  • 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.”
  • 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
    your message.
  • The more communication there is, the more difficult it is for communication
    to succeed.

    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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© 2006; hosted and copyrighted
by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.

For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at

Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership