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The Four Guidelines of Christian Communication
Copyright © 2001, 2002, 2006 - All rights retained by author
Written by: C. W. Booth

Note: in 1986 Faith Baptist Church of Lafayette, Indiana, under the godly shepherding of Pastor Goode, conducted training in both counseling and communications. Part of that training included instruction in their copyrighted Four Rules of Communication, which was, in no small part, a foundational concept for these Four Guidelines of Christian Communication. That we have evolved the rules into the guidelines shown below does not infer defect with regard to the original rules, rather, we felt the new labels were more comfortable for the recent culture and allowed inclusion of alternative biblical references not previously linked to the concepts. We hope to preserve some of the spirit of the prior work though not necessarily the wording.

Understanding the Concept of Guidelines

Guidelines may be considered informal "operational parameters." All types of informal parameters are used by all people on a daily basis. For example, we use such parameters to determine whether we are talking too loudly or too softly in a given social situation. No one imposes on us a precise decibel level, yet, we voluntarily adjust our speech volume so as to be most appealing, impactful, and effective in our communication to one another. This self-moderation of talking volume is a voluntary internalized guideline.

So it is intended with these Four Guidelines of Christian Communication. The precision of implementation is left up to the individual Christian. However, the intent is to follow the biblical principles (as if they were general operational parameters) from which the guidelines were derived. Each guideline is extracted from specific Bible verses, or loosely based on Scriptural injunction. God provided the biblical principles so that we might be better ambassadors of His kingdom and more loving to each other in our speech. These guidelines are meant to emphasize several specific biblical principles of speech, but not dictate the details of our discussion content.

Principled Speech

Each "guideline" is a summary principle that ties back to a range of specific Scripture passages, though most especially Ephesians Chapter Four. The summary principles given below (One through Four) are meant to be shorthand labels encompassing a number of godly behaviors; good speech practices which edify and build up other believers and are endearing to non-Christians.

Such intentional focus on the godly working of our own speech may be referred to as "principled speech." This requires the purposeful use of higher principles (biblical governance) to place parameters around what we actually utter from our lips.

Practical Use of Principles

To make the guidelines practical in one’s own life, read through the guideline labels listed below along with the Bible passages (given at the end of the article) from which they are derived. Then, go back and memorize the label or the name of the governing principle. Finally, share the principles with those whom are both trusted and regularly conversed with so that they may be able to help offer constructive feedback should one find himself entirely lapse on a given guideline.

Guideline Label (to be memorized)

1. speak only truth

2. keep current

3. edify others

4. think before talking

Every time one Christian engages in conversation with another Christian, he should ask of himself, "Am I violating any of these principles?" If a guideline is being violated, or a parameter is overstepped, then one simply must change the words they use so as to conform to the guideline.

It is frankly amazing what happens when one (and especially along with one’s spouse) agrees to abide by each guideline, and agrees to have their words lovingly judged against these principles by the friends with which they talk. This is especially true with "speak only truth," as it requires a person to abandon using 100% words such as "you always.", or, "you never." No person is consistently "always" something, so it becomes a lie to tell someone something like, "You always exaggerate," or, "You always lie to me."

Instead, when one speaks only the truth they are obligated to become more precise in their speech, and therefore less unintentionally antagonistic or offensive. For example, instead of saying, "You never fill the car with gas," one may find it better to say, "Yesterday, you did not fill the car with gas; didn't we agree you would?"

Consider, with regard to the accusation, "You never fill the car with gas," the only reply that should be expected is, "Well of course I fill up the car most of the time, you liar." However, when one becomes more specific and precise (more truthful), much of the volatile element in the situation is discharged, and an actual explanation (and probably an apology) is anticipated.

Your Next Step

Please contemplate taking the time to memorize each of the names of the four principles, and then attempt to apply them in your daily life. With God's grace, you may be genuinely surprised at the transformation in your speech and how people react when they converse with you.

In my own life (though I shudder to use my miserable efforts as examples), I find when I consciously apply these principles, my speech is noticeably more gracious. When I fail to think about these things before I speak, I often fail horribly. I do wonder about myself, am I more often gracious or more often failing? Adopting the regular use of the guidelines is one way by which to measure myself, to pragmatically ascertain if I see any improvement.

The Four Guidelines of Christian Communication--Annotated with Bible Passages

1) speak only truth (Ephs.4:25)

no one is always something, making any such 100% accusatory statement into a lie

2) keep current (Ephs.4:26,27)

3) edify the other party--do not attack them (Ephs.4:29,30)

4) think before saying anything (Proverbs 25:8)

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