Preaching Without Words

By: Northern Seminary

Guest Writer: Stephanie Voland*

I’ve heard it quoted a million times: “Preach always, use words when necessary,” which is often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. It is such a romantic notion in the Christian world; the reality that actions speak louder than words. But what happens when we don’t have words? Rather, when we don’t have enough words to even begin to preach?

That’s where I’m at. As a missionary to Germany just one year into my first term, I’ve learned enough German to speak basically and generally about things. But I lack the ability to speak in parables or metaphors or to apply wit and humor. My once innate ability to express deep truths articulately has become a distant thing of the past.

I had carefully anticipated the things I would lose when relocating to the mission field: my possessions, friends and family, my comfortable routine and culture. But I didn’t anticipate losing my voice. It’s something I’ve treasured since I can remember, and for an introvert, I rank higher than most extroverts in the need to express myself with words.

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But now, in this new place, I no longer have words. The kind of words I love. Words that paint the canvas of life with humor, thoughtfulness and grace. I must admit that I identify a bit with Zachariah when God caused him to become mute.

Of course, one day I’ll have my voice back. Perhaps I’ll even preach in German. But until then, I’ll do my best to relish these quiet moments of listening to the voices of others. And listening to the voice of God. And when I stumble over my words for the umpteenth time today, I’ll offer myself grace and receive it from others. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll realize this season was the most important part of sermon preparation to date.

***You can read more about Stephanie and Philip Voland and support their missionary work in Germany by visiting this website:



August 19, 2016

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