December 20, 2010

CSL: Christian as a Second Language

I remember the first time my brother was talking about teaching ESL - English as a Second Language - to immigrants. My first thought was, "Why don't you just call it English?" If I went to Germany would they ask me [in a German accent, of course], "Would you like to take German as a second language?" This was a new concept for me. I'm beginning to understand: "We're not asking you to quit speaking your own language, just wanting to help you understand how to speak ours as well". And so along these lines, recently I've come to the conclusion that there's a language out there that most of the population here in America probably need to learn. They have conversations with people every day and must wonder in confusion, "What the heck are you talking about?" And you don't have to migrate here from a foreign land to find yourself lost with the lingo. You just need to be an outsider - someone who hasn't grown up religiously religious. All you have to do is wander into a church on any given Sunday and you'll hear it being spoken. It's "Christian". And it's time everyone start speaking the language!

Let's start with the basics - begin with the first word you need to know in the Christian language: CHURCH. Let me use it in a series of sentences for you:
  • Where do you go to church?
  • Kids! Hurry up! We're going to be late for CHURCH!
  • Have you ever seen a church that beautiful? 
  • A fire started in the church kitchen and burned it to the ground.
Ever heard anything that resembles these statements or questions? Ever said anything like this before? Do you speak the language? I do. I've been speaking it from the time I learned English. Pretty sure the order of my words were: Momma - Dada - church. Or something like that. It was engrained and watered into the soil of my red-blooded Southern Baptist roots. We would go to "church" on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings (and yes, you call it "eve-nin", not night), Tuesday night visitation, Wednesday night whatever, and so on and so on..... CHURCH! You know this word I speak of, don't you? Here's the only problem with it: the Christian language doesn't seem to be lining up with the Bible

The way we define, describe, and infer these things - the way we've totally jacked up the meaning of "church" and numerous other slightly important words in our faith - has actually begun to have a bearing on our theology. I know, it's crazy to think it. But what we SAY can actually begin to impact the way we THINK. When we misinterpret the language of the Bible it somehow starts to cause us to misunderstand the meaning and message it's conveying. Let's take our choice word CHURCH as an example. When the New Testament speaks of the "church", it's talking about the people who collectively make up a body of believers. The church is the people - followers of Jesus Christ. The church is a movement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ changing and impacting the lives of real people. It's not a building or a destination or an event on your weekly calendar. And so when you tell your kids (or yourself) that "We're going to be late for church", what you've actually said is, "We're going to be late for the body of Christ!" Or when someone asks you, "Where is your church?" and you tell them, "It's located on Highway 72", either you've unintentionally misled them...or everyone who's part of your church family has actually chosen the communal lifestyle and resides together under one roof. I don't see that happening.

I've had people argue with me - and yes, I seriously mean ARGUE - "You're just blowing this out of proportion. It's just semantics!" Well, interestingly enough, most of the people who want to debate this are what I would call "Somewhat-committed" to their church. When you begin to SPEAK it you begin to BELIEVE it - that the church is a building, a room with pews, a piece of land and property up on the main road across from the Walmart. But when you actually, intentionally, deliberately take the time to THINK about what you're saying, it starts to change you. When you begin to say, "On Sundays, we love being with our church family" or "Our church worships together on Highway 72" and "God loves the church because the church is the PEOPLE" begin speaking the truth. And I'm fairly certain that if you're a follower of Jesus Christ, you probably want to speak the truth. You want your words to accurately represent your Savior and His Word. I know - you've had this religious rhetoric ground into your head for a long time now. It will take some time to detox from the brainwashing. That's OK. It will be worth it!

I dare you to spend an entire week listening for every single time you use the word CHURCH. Examine closely if you're talking about a building, a destination, an event....or a group - a family of people - that Christ gave His life to save and redeem. Change the way you speak. Change the way you THINK! 

CSL: Christian as a Second Language
Lesson 2: The Blessing

1 comment:

Shane said...

Truly blessed to be able to read your blog. Thanks for your thoughts!