— LETTER FROM THE EDITOR —
By Michael C. Mack
As a writer and editor, words are important to me.
Our July/August Christian Standard magazine will contain 28,698 words, and that just includes the articles—not the cover, table of contents, or ads. Managing editor Jim Nieman and I diligently read every one of the words in each issue six or seven times before it is published and we try very hard to steward those words well. We know how important those words—the right words—are to our readers and our mission.
Sometimes we catch incorrect words as we are editing. Thirty years ago, I was assistant editor of The Lookout and had the privilege of editing the weekly Bible study by Orrin Root. Mr. Root, a renowned theologian and former editor-in-chief at Standard Publishing, was meticulous about his use of words; I often didn’t make any changes in his articles. Except one time when I came across this sentence: “Jesus is not sitting at God’s right hand in Heaven.” I read it again . . . and then several more times. I asked editor Simon J. Dahlman what it meant. Finally, I asked Mr. Root. His face turned red with embarrassment. “Now,” he said gently. “Jesus is now sitting on God’s right hand in Heaven.”
Sometimes errors are easy to spot, like in a quoted Bible verse I edited many years ago: “O Death, where is thy stink?” Another time I spotted a wrong word in a writer’s prayer: “Thank you, Lord, for bringing the extraordinary into our lies.” I also came across the word disciplewhip in an article, and no, that’s not a new kind of Christian ice cream!
Of course, no editor is perfect. In 1987, Standard Publishing’s Youth & Student published this sentence: “It is Jesus who abolished death and brought life and immorality through the gospel.” Yikes.
Be careful with your words! As Solomon put it, “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21). I believe that also applies to the written word.
Our words have the power to build up or tear down. Words can wreck long-term friendships, break up families, split churches, and bring division to entire movements. Our words can bring immobilizing pain, oppressive trauma, unimaginable heartache, and stifling depression. Words can start wars and end ministries.
Yet words can also be the healing agent God uses to bring reconciliation, rebirth, revival, and restoration. We need more of these healing words in every arena of our lives and ministries. Words in phrases like “I love you,” “I’m for you,” “I’m proud of you,” “I forgive you,” “I’m sorry,” “You’ve got this,” “God loves you,” “Jesus gave his life for you.”
Words matter for everyone, but perhaps particularly for Christian leaders. We must all steward our words well as we preach, teach, lead, pastor, counsel, and write. Whether it’s a sermon message of many words or a 30-second conversation in the church foyer or the grocery line, our words have the power of life and death.
Unfortunately, especially on social media, I often see people—sometimes church leaders—choosing and using their words carelessly, recklessly, and often hurtfully. Today, what’s written on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms has the power to influence many people positively or negatively toward the church and the good news of Jesus. Some of us need to tame our typing! Paraphrasing James,
With the keyboard we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same keyboard come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
Let’s use our words, whether in speech or writing, humbly, economically, and prudently. Like Jesus, let’s prayerfully speak only the words the Father gives us to say.
Michael C. Mack serves as editor of Christian Standard.