In Thinking Christian, I describe a phenomenon that I call “over-speaking.” Essentially, over-speaking occurs when an individual or group within the church steps beyond their God-given position in order to weigh in on matters that other members of the body are better suited to address.
For example, my wife works in health care. When there are questions about insurance coverage or medications, I defer to her judgment. I have my own areas of expertise, but if I were to assume that because I have advanced degrees in theology that I should handle the medical questions too, I’d be over-speaking. I would be leveraging my expertise in one area to speak about another that (a) I’m not particularly qualified to talk about and (b) my wife is far better suited to address.
It isn’t that we can’t have thoughts and opinions. I take part in medical conversations just like Kim takes part in theological discussions. Instead, over-speaking guards against an impulse to assert ourselves beyond our limits. It cautions us not to adopt an attitude which says, “I’m so good at my job that I should be doing everyone else’s job as well.”
The body of Christ doesn’t operate that way. We have a head. It’s Jesus. The rest of us are members of the body that make unique contributions to the church. We don’t need the arms taking over for the feet or the toes doing the work of the fingers. The body is ordered and designed so that the various members complement one another and accomplish the body’s work through coordination with one another.
So, two ideas we need to embrace about ourselves in order to avoid over-speaking while owning our God-given worth and perspective in the body:
Idea 1: You don’t know everything– We are limited creatures. We see what is in front of us and no more. Unlike God who sees and knows all, we will always have a limited view of reality. The fact that we don’t know everything should keep us humble by reminding us not only of our limitations, but of our interdependent relationship with the rest of God’s people. We are better when we move in concert with the rest of the body. We need to have a curious mind that is ready to receive what other members of the body are uniquely designed and positioned to offer.
Idea 2: You do know something– Not knowing everything doesn’t mean we have nothing to contribute. If over-speaking is a problem, withholding our perspective and refusing to use the gifts God has given us is a problem as well. We contribute from a limited position, but we still contribute. The church needs that contribution.
In this modern world and digital age, we spend a fair amount of time hearing from prominent voices who we allow to mold our minds and set the course of our conversations. Those with big platforms should not be shunned or demonized. There is, as far as I can tell, no biblical prohibition against prominence.
I would say, however, that to the extent those with big platforms over-speak or discourage individual contribution there is a problem. For the church to learn to please God together, we must be diligent in our efforts to recognize the benefit we receive from others while being confident that God has given each of us something to contribute as well. As Paul writes, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you-that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine” (Rom 1:11-12).