And another thing…

There was one point I wanted to make yesterday in the sermon, but since it was “extra” I decided to leave it out and post it here.  In the second half of the message on 1 John 4:13-21, I shared that these passages dealt with the doctrine of the love of God.  These verses all flow from the first half (verses 7-12) which focuses on the root of our love being the God of love as particularly revealed through Christ’s propitiation (atoning work, incurring God’s wrath in our place) for our sins.

Now, a side point I wanted to make somewhat relates to a previous post.  In discussing sermon length one of the issues I’ve heard along the way is that some feel like they are in a seminary class and can’t understand some of the words I use in my messages.  This is understandable, but I know that definition to difficult language is given and I’m very suspicious whether the few that make this claim have ever sat in a seminary classroom.  The bigger issue for me is the dumbing down of the American pulpit.

We have created people who like to be babied and spoon fed absolutely everything.  I know this sounds reactive somewhat.  It’s really not.  It’s a general statement regarding the greater American evangelical church, at least by my observation.  The truth is, I blame the pastors and the people who endure them.  This doesn’t mean we have to be complex in our speech, much less intellectually prideful.  We should speak plainly with simple speech and not grandiose language.  The problem is “propitiation” is a Bible word.

Here’s my contention…  People learn the terms for things they love.  Just listen on Mondays at the office.  You’ll hear guys talk about “the 3-4” verses the “4-3”.  What about the “wildcat? fad or here to stay?”  These are just a few of hundreds of football terms guys use to speak about the game they love.  This is why I don’t watch hockey.  I don’t like watching sports I know little to nothing about and I just don’t care enough about hockey to learn the terms and rules.

Another example is “yarnin’.”  Well, that’s what I call it.  My wife, Jan, loves to knit and is very good at it.  When she first started to get into this hobby / art she began to learn terms that she’d never learned before.  In fact, I watched her at a yarn store in Paris, France (without speaking French) communicate with a woman (who didn’t speak English) about a pattern and type of yarn and we left with exactly what she was looking for… all using “yarnese.”

Again, my point is that people learn terms about things they love.  The Bible is full of words that people in the American church hear as too complex.  Pastors, teach your people these words.  Avoid using terms that are indeed too academic (hopefully, you HAVE sat in those seminary classes).  Use the Bible words and explain them.  If you lose that language you’ll lose those truths.  I know there is a place somewhere for paraphrases like The Message, but if all you give them is paraphrased (rewording) preaching, they will live paraphrased Christian lives.  You are called to translate (explain the meaning) the message of the gospel as revealed in a good, sound translation of the Scriptures so that it translates into real life change.

At least that’s my opinion.

One thought on “And another thing…

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more about “dumbing down”. We’ve been doing it so long and in so many areas, we think it is natural. We wouldn’t have to go back too many generations to see people actually reading long, “difficult” books and sitting for long periods of time. Unfortunately, TV and a host of other technologies has gotten us to expect everything in short sound bites and attention-getters. In regard to words, we are so used to substituting simple or pet words for ideas and things that we don’t even realize that when I child first hears language he will grasp whatever denotation is given. It’s not necessary to give him the “simple” version even if it is harder to say it. Hopefully, that goes for us big people too.


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