Saying a whole lot of nothing.

It’s been about a month since my last Wednesday offering on effective communication. Again, I know I am not an expert but I have learned a bit over the last several years of public speaking and theatrical arts. Alright, so I use theatrical arts loosely.

Last time I shared the most important element in every speaking situation, the audience. They are the “reason we teach” in the first place. Yes, I know God has something to do with it but if there were no people he wouldn’t have anyone to send us to. Today I want to talk about you message. At least a part of your message that you might not be aware of and that can be very distracting.

Entering the umm frustrating uhh world of ahh “Filler Words”…are you tracking with me.

These “filler” words are everywhere and they can mean death to the effectiveness of any message. I will place these filer words into four separate categories.

Nonsense Fillers

These are sure sign of a person who either doesn’t know what they are talking about, terrified that you are listening to them, or so completely distracted that they don’t even know what they are saying. These common words are uhh, umm, and ahh. They mean nothing and yet you and I have both heard some speakers where they were the most used words in the talk.


I don’t know why some preachers use these phrases. Either they think they mean something, are funny, or they are insecure about there message and speaking ability. Whatever the reason, they should never be used either because they add no value to the message or they are simply not true. Here are a few of my favorites (read least favorite).

  • I’m preaching better than you’re amening! Like I said, this is most likely false. Another reason this one bothers me is that the only reason to expect amens is because you think you are teaching what everyone wants to hear. Since when is that effective. No amens might just mean people are being challenged…or you are just boring.
  • Praise God! I like praising God as much as the next Jesus freak (I mean that as a compliment) but that doesn’t mean it should punctuate the end of every sentence.
  • Amen? (Read…Help me out here I’m drowning!)

I am sure there are many more so feel free to share in the comments.

Signature Catchphrases

These are similar to catchphrases but they aren’t as widespread. Every preacher has them, even me…especially me. I am trying to cut them down. Interestingly, Ed Young shares some “Go To” Phrases from some popular speakers on his blog. Here are a few.

  • Rob Bell – “Um…um…um…” and “Are we trackin’?
  • Andy Stanley says, “Isn’t it true…?”
  • Charles Stanley always says, “Watch this…watch this…watch this….”
  • Brian Houston – “Ah, church! Ah, church! The best is yet to come….”

These are not nearly as distracting as general catchphrases since they tend to follow the personality of the speaker and evolve with the speaker. Here are few of mine over the years.

  • 1996-1998: It’s just that simple.
  • 1998-2005: I would submit to you…
  • 2005- to present: I’m going to be honest with you…

That last one I think has come out of a two-fold awareness that preachers aren’t trusted and that I have been in a phase of my ministry where I am being a lot more transparent and not so guarded. I am sure I have more than that so feel free to point them out in the comments.

Prayer Fillers

Public prayer is the time when we all get to show how spiritual we are. The problem is that if you break down most prayers there’s not much to say. Never fear, filler words are here! We have all heard this prayer at one time or another.

Lord God, we just ask, Lord God, that you would just, Lord God, help us, Father, to live, Father, more like you son, Lord God.

This prayer usually goes on much longer but you can see where I am going with this. It’s almost like prayer has become a performance piece. I still do this in some ways but strangely, I don’t do it in private, only in public.

So there you have it. A few ways that you choice of words or lack thereof can send you message spirally down to the depths of presentation obscurity. I hope you enjoyed.