There has been a trend in the past couple of decades to steer away from theological terms in the public gatherings of the church. The idea is to not use terms that people are unfamiliar with because they will feel distanced and unwelcome. I understand the idea behind this and agree with it—to a point.
For, instance, I think we should be kind and helpful. If we use a word that is not part of the vernacular—the everyday language—we should define it for people (just like I did there). We should anticipate what people think or know and address those terms proactively. We should learn to share what the Bible says in language that is clear and compelling.
But, there are two reasons that we need not jettison all theological language in our gatherings.
I love coffee. I might like coffee too much—this is a constant evaluation for me. But, one of the reasons I don’t jettison all theological language is because Starbucks makes me learn new words when I order coffee. Have you ever tried to order a medium coffee from a barista—the person who makes coffee—at Starbucks?
“I’d like a medium coffee please…”
<look of disdain> “Oh, you mean ‘grande’?”
“Is that medium?”
“Then, yes, I mean grande…”
Then, the follow-up question…
“Hot? What do you mean?”
“Dark, medium or blonde?”
“I’m married…She’s blonde…”
“Never mind, we’ll just give you Pike…”
“Is that coffee?”
To get what you love at Starbucks you have to embrace a new vocabulary. You have to get acclimated to a new culture, but if you love coffee there, you’re willing to do that…even if you have to buy a dictionary.
CrossFit is sweeping the nation. This combination of community, exercise, support and health has really taken off. But, have you ever tried to talk with someone who does this?
“So, I was at my box the other day doing a WOD…”
“Does that involve paper or is the box used for jumping?”
“No, it was cardio and plyometrics and gymnastics with a little weight lifting…AMRAP”
“Wow, sounds like a big box…”
“No, the box is the place…”
“Oh…What’s a WOD?”
“It’s the Workout of the Day…I was going for a PB on the BP but the Chipper really cleaned me out…”
I mean, you need a translator to follow what’s going on. But, if you want to be part of that culture, then you have to learn some terminology. If you don’t learn those terms, you won’t be able to participate. But, if you want to be a part, you’ll learn.
This gets to the heart of the matter on theological development for followers of Jesus. If you want it, there’s no reason you can’t find it. There are resources all over the internet for theological development. You’ll have to understand a culture and work to learn the words for things that are true. But, if you love Jesus and want to follow Him, you will.
So, let’s work to make spiritual things accessible to people so that as many people as possible can meet Jesus. Then, let’s work hard to make disciples who can make more disciples—because Jesus is so much better than coffee, and godliness is so much better than physical exercise.