This past month some student leaders, Hanna and I had a chance to attend the Student Ministry Workers Retreat, which is a professional development conference for student ministry workers hosted by Student Ministry Matters (also known as the BMA of Arkansas Youth Department). The focus of this year’s retreat was the power of words and how they impact ministry.
Over the course of three group sessions, we saw that students struggle to master their speech, and so do those who lead and serve students. There were two impactful verses that stood out to me that day:
• “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:19 ESV) and
• ”I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36-37).
When I started putting together the implications of these two things that Jesus said, what I realized was more than a little frightening. He said that from the depraved heart within me come a host of evil things, including sins of the mouth like false witness and slander, and that on the day of judgment, I will account for every careless word that comes from my mouth. So, not only will I account for every willfully spoken evil, hurtful, and damaging word that comes from my mouth, but I will also account for all the carelessly spoken evil, hurtful and damaging ones that come from my mouth.
What I also realized during the conference was that I was not alone in the waves of conviction that were washing over me. During one session, our group was sitting together on a row of chairs in a lecture room. As we heard more and more about how what comes out of our mouths is representative of the condition of our heart, I could feel a tsunami of conviction crash over the row.
On our way home, we stopped for supper and had a discussion about what we had heard at the conference. As we shared, each one of us expressed how we felt our words were not as honoring to God as they should be. We confessed to one another what we felt convicted about, which ranged from gossip to slander to cursing to sarcasm to lying. There was an air of corporate repentance as we reflected on what the Holy Spirit had revealed to us.
As hard as it was to bear the conviction, it fills me with joy to know that the Lord was working in a group of us. He was doing that to make each of us more holy, but He was also doing it to make The Hedge a more holy community. We’ve already seen our conversations at the ministry be kinder and more life-giving as a result of the convictions we felt.
That’s what I see when I look back on the last month at The Hedge.