Summary: While we’re attempting to reach "Harry and Sally" with updated methods and terminology, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water
“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
We’ve been hearing a lot in these recent years in regards to how today’s church needs to change its ways in order to reach out to the unchurched masses.
There is criticism in reference to our forms of worship and our terminology and our music; the position of the movers and shakers in the ecumenical community being that in order to reach unsaved or unchurched Harry and Sally we’re going to have to merge into the 21st century with them, and change our way of speaking and put the hymnals in a closet and exchange our pews for padded chairs and start addressing society’s most pressing needs from the pulpit, so we will once more establish a significant and pertinent role in our culture.
I thought of finding someone to quote here, to further establish this assertion that these things are indeed being said. But then I realized what a waste of time that would be, since I know that all of you have been hearing and maybe even saying the same things.
Besides, I went to the internet and ‘Googled’ these words, ‘church speak terminology’ and came up with no shortage of pages I could have gone to in order to find people’s varied opinions on the usage of distinctly Christian terminology. So if you have the time and the inclination and the computer, you can go look it up for yourself.
Now to a point I agree with these well-meaning folks, and I clearly understand their concern. But I want to put the brakes on for a moment before we progress into these verses today, and consider just how far the admonition should be taken, to change our terminology in an effort to avoid disenfranchisement of the culture.
After all, the Christian church is a culture of its own. There are plenty of scripture admonitions to come out from among them and be separate. To be conformed, not to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. To be so different from those around us who are of the world that they will recognize us as having been with Jesus.
And I am afraid that in an effort to ‘tone down’ the church-speak and strive to appeal more to the unchurched and unsaved, it is far too easy to throw the baby out with the bathwater and begin instead to become like them as opposed to just communicating better with them.
Ok, you can see where I’m going, but you won’t for long if I continue to ramble. So let me wind up this point simply saying that most of the terminology we use in the church began being used for a very specific reason; often to convey very specific Christian doctrine, and if we abandon that in an effort to dumb-down our communication with those outside ecumenical circles we may be better understood by them on the surface, but we will actually be saying much less of significance to them in the end.
When a baby first begins learning to talk, we use our common language and teach them to use it.
When Johnny finally gets out ‘I want tookie’, we correct him with, ‘cookie’, and eventually he says ‘cookie’. We do not, I hope, adopt his infant speak and go through the rest of our lives saying ‘tookie’ for the sake of clearer conversation with now 30 year old Johnny.
And folks, there are very good reasons why we use terms like ‘fellowship’ and ‘worship’ and ‘discipleship’ and ‘stewardship’ and the ever increasingly popular Baptist term, ‘jump-ship’ (kidding…sorry) .
Now I would let you argue with me about the value of finding other words to communicate some of these things with outsiders, at least until they become Christians and can be taught why these old terms are important.
But when it comes to the doctrines of the faith and the terminology we use for those, I would stand my ground firmly and insist that the only way to communicate the individual’s need to the individual is to use those words we hold dearly, and explain them as best we can, and trust the Holy Spirit to do His enlightening work.
It may not be necessary until they are a part of the church to try and teach them words that don’t pertain to them, such as Propitiation, and Incarnation and Atonement, but they most certainly need to hear words like Born Again and Reconcile and Resurrection and Saved.