Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Do Words Mean Things?

A Church For Starving Artists wonders about the meaning of words
Minister could mean:
  • The ordained person with the microphone
  • The specialized professional
  • Anybody doing ministry

It can be a verb or a noun.

Church could mean:

  • The building where a congregation meets.
  • Sunday morning at 11 (or whenever you worship once/week)
  • The people of a congregation

It can be a noun or an adjective.

She goes on to conclude:
The way we define these terms determines whether our congregations will be thriving 21st Century communities of faith or slowly dying institutions.
She is, of course, correct, but that phrase "21st Century communities of faith" is a truly fascinating one. Is not the church eternal? Have we not had ministers since at least the time of Christ? Why then is it necessary to modify the term "community of faith" to a specific historical setting? Unless, of course, the meaning of the words is fungible. But is a fungible definition a "definition" in any meaningful sense of that word?

Redefining words has become quite the game in the last few decades. The difference between, for example, eduction and indoctrination, has virtually ceased to exist. Education teaches us definitions. Indoctrination does whatever it takes to make us think like the other. One is smart, the other is lazy.

I think God expects us to be smart. So why do we need to worry about those definitions - they have been around for centuries. What we need to do is learn those definitions and act accordingly.

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