So I’ve been thinking about the power and importance of language and words. Metaphysically speaking, there are “things”. And then there are words that describe “things”. The problem is that our language and words always fall short of accurately describing or truly representing the thing in it’s entirety. Said differently, words cannot access the thing itself and represent it truly.
Words are like a cloak that we put over something to help give it shape and meaning.
Here’s why this matters to people of faith and particularly me as a church planter.
Is it possible that we use words, cloaks to give something meaning and shape, that don’t actually represent what we are intending? Is it possible that words have a shelf life? At one point in time, in a particular place and context, a particular word did just fine to describe the “thing” that was attempting to be accessed. But now, 10, 20, 100 years later, those words don’t actually help to define what it is were trying to get at, in fact they may hinder us.
A few examples:
Church Service_at point in time this may have been helpful to refer to a gathering of God’s people on a rhythmic schedule. In our day and in our culture when you say “service” you’re tapping into a stream of influence that deals with capitalism, consumerism and Starbucks. Not really all that helpful when the “thing” you’re trying to describe is actually nothing like any of those things and may in fact even stand in opposition to them in principle. May I offer another option? One that we are choosing to use with intentionality at Awaken is “Gathering”.
“Going to Church”_again, at one point in time this may very well have been a helpful way to describe God’s people gathered in the world. When there were no “church buildings” and what was being referred to was a group of people gathered in the name of Jesus…then fine, say ‘I’m going to church’. But in a world where there’s a “church” building on multiple corners of any given intersection, we have a problem. When I say I’m going to church, my referent is now a geographical location that includes bricks, mortar, windows and doors. The problem is that this has nothing to do with the “church” the Bible speaks of. The “church” as the New Testament describes it is a living and breathing organism that is made up of people who follow Jesus. May I offer an alternative? What if we said “I’m going to a gathering of the church?” Or how about “I’m going to a gathering where the church will be?”
Just a few thoughts on words. Anyone else have any ideas on this topic?