Preachers, Mobilize Your Language and Send It Into Battle

By Jeffrey Arthurs

It was said of Winston Churchill that “he mobilized the English language, and sent it into battle.” I exhort you, send your best words into battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Send language forth like soldiers massing for the charge, cutting the wire, and storming the stronghold.

You can do this by using vivid verbs and nouns. Don’t say, “There was a major city”; say, “Chicago.” Don’t say, “The thief brought a weapon”; say, “knife,” “lead pipe,” or “sawed-off shotgun.” Don’t say, “The devil is all over the place trying to mess up our lives”; say, “he prowls like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.”

Are you familiar with the story of the dramatist who received a package from a budding playwright? The young author had sent a poorly written play and a wordy, pretentious letter: “Sir, I would like you to read the enclosed script carefully and advise me on it. I need your answer at once, as I have other irons in the fire.”

The dramatist wrote back, “Remove irons, insert manuscript.” Vivid, terse, and direct.

In Preaching That Connects, Mark Galli and Brian Larson offer this exercise. See how many words you can cut from this flaccid sentence: “The relentless creativity of God has affected my life in such a consistent manner that I’d like to share with you what I am learning at this point.” Maybe you could say it this way, “God’s relentless creativity has affected me consistently. Here’s what I’ve learned.” The improved example trims the fat. It mobilizes the English language and sends it into battle. Mobilize your language and send it into battle.

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This post is adapted from “Mobilize your language and send it into battle” by Jeffrey Arthur in Preaching Points: 55 Tips for Improving Your Pulpit Ministry, edited by Scott M. Gibson (Lexham Press, 2016).

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Written by
Matthew Boffey

Matthew Boffey (MDiv, Trinity International University) is the pastor of worship at Christ Church Bellingham. He is also editor-in-chief of Ministry Team magazine, has edited several books, and has written for several blogs and publications, including Relevant online, the Logos blog, and the Faithlife blog.

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Written by Matthew Boffey