Making Your Words Count

We’re preparing in our church to broadcast a service on BBC Radio Ulster this coming Sunday and it’s been quite an interesting exercise to prepare. It’s a great privilege to share your worship with a larger audience and you know all sorts of people will tune in from all sorts of places. Some might be in hospitals or nursing homes, others might be preparing meals in the kitchen, others might be making journeys in their cars or out for a walk with the headphones stuck in.

We have the privilege of broadcasting our services each week through the marvels of the internet, but not everyone has access, so this is a special and unique experience to share our worship live on the radio.

One of the things we have to be very aware of is timing, as the service begins just after the 10.00 am news and finishes at 10.43 or 10.44 so, essentially, we have 40 minutes. We have spent time in the church with the stopwatch timing the reading of the liturgy, the Bible readings, the sermon and the prayers. Our musicians have been timing the hymns and the organ voluntary and we hope to come in just under our allocated time. 

It’s a bit of a painful exercise as a preacher. What can I keep and what do I need to cut? Is a particular illustration or story necessary to make the point, or am I elongating it unnecessarily? 

I always think the masters of communicating and broadcasting make it look easy. Chat show hosts sit on the sofa and laugh and joke and include everyone in the conversation, yet they seem to know exactly when to draw the conversation to a close. Broadcasters covering live events, whether they are sporting events or election results, can talk away knowledgably about things for as long or short as is necessary and never seem to be flustered as they are interrupted. They can adapt with great versatility and the key to all of this is preparation.

When I first started preaching before the era of word processors or computers I used to write my sermons in exercise books. I knew if I wrote a particular number of pages that would mean the sermon would be a particular length. With word counters I know that a certain number of words usually means a particular length and this is a useful tool when you prepare for a live broadcast.

One of the things I have observed and learned over the years is how important it is to make our words count.

We never know when things like the gift of speech can be taken suddenly from us. When visiting loved ones who are seriously ill it’s important to have significant conversations and say the things that are on our hearts. At times, people’s situation can change very rapidly and that opportunity to say the things we wanted to say is lost unexpectedly.

One of the things I read about the terrible terrorist attacks on 9/11 2001 was that the last conversations people shared from the twin towers in New York, or from their cellphones in aeroplanes, were filled with messages of love. They knew something terrible was unfolding, but their instinct was to tell the special people in their lives that they loved them.

Sometimes, because of our reserve, we find it hard to say these things. I sometimes ask myself in writing Blogs or preaching sermons what if you never had the chance to do another one what would you like people to take away?

I love the medium of podcasting and, in this week’s episode, I had the privilege of sharing what I believe to be a very important conversation with a lady called Fiona Spargo Mabbs. If you’ve never listened to one of these, I’d love you to take a listen to this one and to share it. The message Fiona has to share is so important, especially if you have any young people in your life. She is passionate about her work which came out of a place of heartbreaking tragedy but, in her pain, she longs to spare others the same experience.

Could we hold in our prayers, please, the family of Brian McDowell whose funeral takes place on Saturday morning at 11.30 am, and the family of Jennifer McCullough, whose funeral will take place next Tuesday 16th January at 2.00 pm. May they know God’s comfort and peace in their sad time of loss.

If you are coming to our broadcast service on Sunday, please remember the times are different from our normal Sunday services.

The 9.00 am Holy Communion will be at 8.30 am and we are asking the congregation to be seated by 9.40 am for a 10.03 am start for the broadcast. This will be in place of our morning service at 11.00 anm and the evening service will be at 7.00 pm as normal. You can live stream the 10.00 am service as usual on the St Finnian’s YouTube channel or website, or listen live on BBC Radio Ulster or on BBC Sounds.

Here’s hoping we can make those words count and enable people to connect with the Living God by the power of His Spirit. 

Look forward to speaking again soon.

Much love to everyone,


Listen to the latest episode of ‘Bitesize Chunks of Faith’