If you decided to take on the challenging, yet rewarding task of teaching English to a group of immigrants (ESL, as we call it) you would (hopefully) go into this situation with an already established bedrock of patience. It's going to take time. They don't speak this language. And if we're honest, we have the most ridiculous language on the planet. This might have something to do with why 1/2 the people actually from this country can't even speak it correctly. Bottom line: Learning a second language is a tough road to walk.
Now let's talk about "church" language. Anyone with any common sense should not expect someone without some level of theological training or study to know what words like sanctification or atonement - or even theological for that matter - mean. That said, a lot of churches operate and act like those folks should be completely down with the lingo. But this shouldn't come as a surprise to us. Why? Because it's painfully apparent that much of the church doesn't even know what the "church" actually is.
Headed to the gym the other morning I drove past a sign much like the one above: Church For Sale. And yes, I get it. There's a "church" that's building a bigger, better building a few miles away and so now they're trying to sell their buildings and property. I get it. But guess what: Other people don't get it. There are multitudes of people out there - lost people who have never entered into the fellowship of the "church" - who still believe wholeheartedly that the "church" is a building. Not only that, there are multitudes - yes, millions and millions of people - who actually enter those buildings week in and week out, Sunday after Sunday, still under the misguided delusion that the building is the "church". And this language is driving home an idea - a theology - a worldview - that is reinforcing years and years of decay to the "sentness", mobility, and movement that Jesus breathed into His church - His people.
The Church = The People
Pastors - Please STOP talking this way!
Living in Alabama, I remember a few years ago as the arguments over legislation on immigration heated up, hearing people say ignorant things like: "If they can't learn the language, they ought to just go back home!" Really? What if Jesus said, "If you guys can't learn the language, you should get your sorry selves out of the Body!" Mull that over for a second. "You keep calling my Body a building! What's up with that?"
Here's the deal: If the "Church" is actually "For Sale", we're in big trouble! And if it's not, then stop saying it is. Get another sign. Stop sending a misleading, brainwashing, toxic message. Stop reinforcing years and years of lazy language. We're digging a hole that we're very soon not going to be able to see out of anymore.
Stop saying "The blessing" and start "Giving thanks". Sorry, but God's not going to "bless" your slab of ribs, cole slaw, beans, and sweet tea. Enjoy it, nonetheless.
Stop telling the kids that you're "going to church". Start telling them you're "going to meet with your church family."
We call the buildings The Brook. We call the church our "church family".
We're deliberately and intentionally trying to teach the language - to some who have never learned it and to others who are having to unlearn years of misguided grammar. It's going to take time. It's going to take patience. But it's worth it.
By the way: There's a great building for sale in Madison, Alabama, if your church family is looking for a place to gather, fellowship, and come together.