I have a friend who describes himself as a wordsmith, he enjoys learning about different words, their meanings and he uses somewhat unusual words often. I wouldn’t describe myself as a wordsmith, however, I do enjoy listening intently to people and the specific words that they use. Over recent weeks I’ve seen, or heard, numerous people invoke certain phrases that have made me stop and think.
I’ve been thinking about the benefits or the disadvantages of using such phrases in the church today, specifically phrases that wouldn’t be used normally outside the church. Examples of such words would be…
Covenant family of God, covenant children, covenant of membership, covenant households…
Prophetic word, prophetic ministry, prophetic voice, prophetic anointing…
Apostolic ministry, describing Christians as ‘apostolic people’, apostolic office…
I understand that each word comes with its own theological baggage, each word comes with a history behind it. Each word has its own ideas or characteristics and I don’t intend to argue a particular point of view on the matter.
However, I would like people to think about the significance of the words that they use. As pastors and preachers, our goal should be to teach and equip the saints for service and present the gospel to non-Christians. But the way we do that, they way we convey truth is important.
Over recent weeks I’ve seen people use Christian-lingo to explain the status of a Christian before God, I’ve seen ministers call people to a church community that sounds so foreign to the unchurched. The language we use as we call people to repent and believe in Jesus is important.
I understand the appeal of theological/Christian jargon that is theologically rich and comprehensive. However, what we teach from the pulpit or the language we train others with all has a knock on effect. Training people to understand the wonderful benefits and Biblical evidence for covenant church membership is important. But to use that terminology is strange for the culture and not understandable to the average Brit, it’s not language we would use day-to-day.
The words we use in the pulpit, in the pew and in the pub are important because they explain the gospel and tell people what they’re entering into.
Use language, in the pulpit, in the pew and in the pub, that glorifies Christ, that is understandable and that points people to the wondrous news of the gospel.