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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Church Censorship and Banned Staff Words 6-10

This is a continuation of yesterday's post on words the Westwinds staff is no longer allowed to use at the risk of irritation.

6. Postmodern—used interchangeably to define a period of time, a philosophy of ministry, French literature and thought, art, theology, architecture and a mess of other things.

Context : : :
“Oh, their church is very postmodern. They use a lot of candles.”
“Of course I like to talk about postmodernity. I love Jacques Derrida.”
“Don’t go to that church, they embrace postmodern thought.”

Banned : : : Here is another example of people seldom knowing what they are talking about. Many of our issues surrounding this term are the same as the issues we have with “seeker.” The fact that a Christian can love the postmodern, hate the postmodern, read the postmodern, have concerns with the postmodern, be banned for being postmodern, and live in the postmodern all at the same time should sum up the quandary. And so, once again, as history repeats itself, a very helpful term is introduced into the conversation and serves to be another word added to the Christian church’s arsenal as it destroys itself from within.

7. Emergent/Emerging—used in many contexts. Sometimes used in the same sentence though they may mean very different things. Also the name of a “movement” and a loosely-connected group of people who are in a “dialogue” or “conversation” about ministering to “postmoderns” or in a “postmodern context” with those who are “post-Christian” and “unchurched.” Can be used to describe the church in terms of a growing, learning, expanding, experimental, period of time or new era.

Context : : :
“I hate that guy. He’s emergent.”
“I love that guy. He’s emergent.”
“I love the emerging conversation.”
“They do a lot of Crowder songs by candlelight and have prayer tents. They are so emergent.!”

Banned : : : The problem here lies in understanding if someone is talking about a theology, a movement, a conversation, a new era, or all of the above. I guess it is helpful to have words that fast-forward a conversation and get us on the same page but this, like many words before it, has worn thin. Then, there’s the whole issue with these words being attached to a “style” of ministry that may or may not have anything to do with the “conversation.” When conversation surrounding theology becomes a “style” we begin to emulate, I start to shiver a bit.

8. non-believer—not even gonna spend time on this one other than to say it ranks up there close to “heathen” on the list of tacky words used to describe our friends who are not followers of Jesus. Banned.

9. Contemporary—a word sometimes used to describe a style of music that a church may play/sing in a corporate worship setting

Context : : :
“We used to sing hymns but now we do contemporary.”
“We have two services on the weekend—the traditional and the contemporary.

Banned : : : I don’t want to cause waves here but I have never walked in to a church that describes itself as musically “contemporary” that any of the people I know would ever define as contemporary. I know many of my friends and some of you reading this right now use this word to describe what is going on in your church but my opinion is just because a church does something other than hymns, they are not really contemporary. Contemporary usually means “not as old as the old stuff but still pretty old.” Or, even worse, “brand new but still played as if it were the old stuff.” So, let’s find new ways to describe what we actually do musically. But, contemporary has lost its meaning.

10. Relevant—a word most often used to mean “important and meaningful in the economy in which we live. More often than not associated with pop culture and the language of the people.

Context : : :
“The movie clip we used is very relevant to today’s problems.”
“We need to change our music style to be more relevant—ya know, maybe do some U2.”

Banned : : : this one isn’t horribly bad. I have enjoyed reading the magazine by the same name over the years. At least this word still has meaning in everyday language. We could use it in casual conversation and folks would know what we meant. One problem we have with the word is its overuse. It’s like when a band releases a decent song but when you hear it on every freaking station every day until your ears bleed it may as well be muzak. It becomes annoying and one of those “smart” words people throw into conversation to sound . . . uh . . . relevant.

There is a deeper issue we have with this word however and it is philosophical. I don’t know that Jesus wants us to be “relevant” in the way many people use it in church circles. It is usually used in the context of being “hip” or “current” which isn’t necessarily bad but it seems a bit off mark. So, we have been using a much older word to discuss the relationship of church and culture—we are talking in terms of being “incarnational.” This is in fact exactly what Jesus did. In an incarnational economy there is no delineation of secular and sacred but rather, an investment of ourselves in the world in which we live. Much like the way God took on a skin-suit and tabernacled among us.

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