Josh Holland

Charlotte, North Carolina

Pastor of Upside Down Church. Formerly with the Billy Graham Association preparing for outreaches with Franklin and Will Graham.



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Lost in Translation: The Power of Our Words

This past spring I began communicating with a pastor in Kenya. Pastor Joel contacted me via email one day and informed me that he had stumbled across UpsideDown Church’s website and that he, along with some of his church members, had been listening to our messages online. After several months they actually made the decision to rename their church “UpsideDown Church of Kenya” and they consider themselves a sister church of UDC.

We’ve been privileged to ship Bibles to them and to stand with them in prayer. I speak and pray with Pastor Joel over the phone several times each month and am believing that in the future God will provide an opportunity for a team from UDC to go to Kenya on a short term mission trip to help them spread the Gospel and meet the needs of the people in any way we can.

Earlier this week something really funny happened. I was emailing with Pastor Joel and he suggested that we talk on the phone at a particular time on Friday. I responded,  “I can’t wait to talk to you on Friday!” He responded, “Dear Pastor Josh, let us talk on Wednesday, then.” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud! What I meant as a figure of speech, he took literally. When I use the phrase  “I can’t wait”, I mean, “I’m eagerly anticipating.” English speaking Kenyans apparently don’t use the same idiom; the message was lost in translation.

It reminded me that word choice matters!  I said one thing, but he heard something else. This was an innocent miscommunication caused by a cultural barrier, but how many times do we find ourselves in an awkward, uncomfortable or strenuous situation because we said something that was misinterpreted? It’s easy for us to get defensive and justify ourselves by thinking that theother person should have known what we meant to say. But we must take ownership for the words that come out of our own mouths!  James 1:19 says to be “quick to listen and slow to speak.” Often, we operate oppositely; we’re quick to speak and slow to listen. And it can get us in trouble.

Proverbs 25:11 says that “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” God expects us, as Spirit-filled Christians, to filter our words before we speak them. When we speak the right word at the right time, it’s a beautiful thing! On the other hand, when we choose our words poorly, it creates contention and chaos. It’s often not what you say but how you say it. Let’s make a decision today to speak words of life and encouragement, prayerfully considering the impact of each syllable uttered. Truly, the power of life and death are in the tongue!