Summary: Labeling can be abused. But there are correct labels. Let's live up to the labels God gives us.
To encourage the correct labeling of things and living up to the labels used in the churches.
Like it or not, we are all labeled. Some of those are false labels and some are true descriptions. Some of the labels which we may not like are true of us as well as some of the labels that we do like.
Let's discuss labels that we have read, labels that we wear as a result of how we live, labels that preachers all want to wear, and how to preach a label as a sermon.
1. Labels we Read
Have you ever read a label? Most of us have. Perhaps you are sitting at the kitchen table with a few minutes to kill and you pick up the cereal box, or the coffee jar and read the label. Do those stiff new tags on shirts really irritate your neck like they do mine? Yet, they too contain information. What items are on a label? A label often contains the following items:
Product name: Spacepac Oaty Crunch
Product description: Breakfast food with mild laxative
Ingredients: Freeze-dried oats, wheat bran, prunes, salt
Net quantity of product: 500 grams (ca. one pound)
Use by date: January 22, 2050
Directions for use: Open space pack, pour into bowl, add milk
Name and place of manufacturer: Spacepac Brekkies Inc., Big Pool, MD, USA
2. Labels we Wear
Are you a political conservative, moderate or liberal? What sports team do you support? When it comes to clothing are you a casual or dressy person? When it comes to your taste in music are you a rocker, jazzer, classical buff or do you like only two kinds of music, country AND western? When it comes to beverages are you a wine connoisseur or do you prefer the poor man's champagne, a small glass of beer? Or are you a teetotaler who is into the hard drinks, like Coca Cola and Pepsi? We all wear labels and our friends who know us well, know what those labels are. The following may be a semi-serious label that some people people place on Christians:
Product name: Christian
Product description: religious nut, wacky, but honest, faithful husband
Ingredients: does not swear, judgmental, uses funny religious words
Net quantity of product: one
Price: everybody has his price
Use by date: out of date
Directions for use: treat with disdain, gossip about, respect his integrity
Name and place of manufacturer: Denomination, Denominational HQ
3. Preachers' Labels
The religious labels we wear are often not of our own design. Some labels are the result of community prejudice and our personal reputation. Among some of our non-Christian friends, if you believe the Bible, you may be labeled a fundamentalist, which may not be a label you would choose for yourself. If you are a Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal or something else, there will probably be community prejudices and other such labels which are out of your control.
However, to some extent, we can influence the labels that people place upon us. They may call us "religious" but do they also call us "honest" and "friendly?" Some Christians deservedly wear the label of dishonest and unfriendly, probably because they have never even thought about how their light shines.
Somebody once introduced me as a preacher and their automatic reaction was that I must be a very encouraging and uplifting person to be around. They didn't know me from a bar of soap, but had obviously been around some other preachers who fit that description. What a wonderful example they must have been! I hope that you wear a label similar to the following among your congregation:
Product name: Preacher
Product description: zealous, orthodox, informative, attention-grabbing, caring
Ingredients: Bible, great stories, clean jokes, excellent exegesis
Net quantity of product: one
Use by date: none
Directions for use: listen intently to, pray for, thank, support
Name and place of manufacturer: from the Great Shepherd, heaven
4. Preach a Label
Preaching a label then is just taking the items of a label and organizing them to describe a particular aspect of Christian life. It may be the label light, or salt, or loving, or Christian, or in a denominational sense, Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran or Pentecostal. I don't recommend using denominational labels. I personally just prefer the label Christian. All denominations have strengths and weaknesses in theology and practice and I personally don't believe that any one of the mainstream denominations is better than any other in an overall sense.
I don't even prefer the labels fundamentalist, evangelical, centrist or liberal, because I really believe that healthy Christianity is all of those things, depending on which particular doctrine or practice you may be talking about. For instance, I believe that we ought to be liberal with God's love, balanced on non-essentials such as 2,000 years worth of church traditions, evangelical in regard to the Gospel and our use of the Bible, and fundamentalists when it comes to what Jesus actually taught.