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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Banned Staff Words Time-Out

Before I unveil more “banned words” I want to make sure we are tracking. These lists are not intended to offend or make anyone feel bad or uncool. I certainly don’t and Westwinds certainly does not have a corner on the cool market. Or the “effective language” market. We are constantly re-lexicon-ing.

I look at this blog space as a dialogue. I often wonder which posts I write that I will one day either have to : : :

1. apologize for
2. take back
3. change my mind about
4. deny

We are all just trying to figure it out aren’t we?

However, I do feel we need some voices in the church to be “irritants” to provoke thought and change.

My friend Chris said to me today, “I'd be interested to know how you would talk in terms of describing your church, style, and people (both following God and not). I think most of the time we use those words because we often don't have better language to use.”

Insightful. Good stuff Chris.

So, let me first say (and I don’t know that it was clear in my first two posts) that we have used all of the “banned” words at one time or another and they have served a purpose. A lot of the “ban” is only because they have lost their meaning and context for us. They have become convoluted. They don’t help anymore. And in most cases, they have become a hindrance.

Language/words are tricky. We need them. They mean something. We all spend hours and hours trying to define and label things in ministry don’t we? We don’t want to waste our time or anyone else’s. We want our words to count.

So even if we don’t re-lexicon every catch-phrase and label we have used in recent years (although, honestly, some of them have to go away immediately), we at least need to make sure we are aggressive in defining what we mean when we say them and we are intervening when someone shoots their mouth off about certain phrases without knowing what they are talking about.

Example : : :

Bob: “I hate the seeker church thing. They are all about “the show.” When are we going to get back to worshiping Jesus?”

You: “Bob, shut up.” (joking) “Bob, I am pretty sure all the people at that church love Jesus a whole bunch. Why don’t you take me out to lunch and we’ll toss this stuff around. You are obviously angry.”

One of the things we have done in describing our people “both following God and not” is to take a little of a different approach in defining our audience--a different starting point. Whereas many churches start by asking, “who are the people we want to reach?” or “who is our target?” we have asked, “Who is Westwinds attracting?” Instead of defining a “target” and shaping ministry around those people, we have placed a high value on the authentic culture of Westwinds and the inherent personality of the church. This has been way more helpful for us.

In all of this discovery for us over the past four years, we have come to understand that there is a certain type of person or group of people who are usually attracted to Westwinds. These are the spiritually “curious and disenfranchised” (burned by organized religion and church), the “creative” (artsy), and those with an “intellectual” bent.

We often describe our church personality as being somewhat of a boutique--that special place you go to get that special something. Back in October of '07 I did a post on our church's personality that may be helpful to some of you. Go here.

We talk in terms of people being able to "belong before they believe"—to feel safe at Westwinds—to trust us—as they progress in their spiritual journey. Sometimes, even the word journey gets old for us but we haven't found a better word to describe the continuum and something that connotes movement--towards God and of God.

I think the average person at Westwinds would definitely feel part of something bigger than themselves and would feel like “we are all in this together.” We talk in terms of “moving towards God” and “orientation towards God.” We talk in terms of broken relationship with God, distortion, and shame.

Really, we end up saying things a myriad of ways rather than a couple of labels.

So, yeah . . . we never want our words and phrases to be a hindrance. When they stop working, become a hindrance, or become part of the arsenal we dip into to destroy one another, we adapt, overcome, and move on. We should educate.

Here's one to think about, if you want to know if your language is effective see how people who aren't followers of Jesus talk about themselves.

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