The Unconscious Ill-Equipping Of The Saints

The good Bible teaching that occurs in many churches is not enough to equip Christ following congregants to interact effectively with the world.  In fact, I believe that some pastors are unconsciously hindering their flocks, and are, as a result, “ill-equipping” them for the work of ministry.

I recently heard a tremendous quote, and I will try to paraphrase.  The speaker spoke of the American Church and said, “We are a subculture of a sub culture.  We read each other’s book, we sing each other’s songs, and we scratch each other’s backs”.

I completely agree that the Body of Christ is a sub culture, and that each movement or denomination is a further sub culture, and finally, that each individual church within a movement or denomination is a sub, sub, sub culture.  There is nothing wrong with that…to a point.

Each culture and sub culture has its own language.  The lack of awareness that we (the Church) have regarding our sub, sub culture language is the thing that concerns me. What do we sound like to the world?

As followers of Jesus, we have been given the Great Commission, to “make disciples of all nations”.  Most of the people in our churches understand and agree with that.

However, here is the rub.  Here is the problem.  The people in our churches often parrot the words they hear us pastors speak.  If they hear us only speak “Christianese”, and our particular brand of “Christianese”, then that is how many of them will speak.  They will seek to explain the eternal truths of God by using language that is familiar only to their sub, sub culture.

I believe that we who stand in the pulpit need to speak in the language of our culture and of the current generation.  We do not need to descend into vulgar speaking or innuendo, but we need to communicate the truths of Jesus in ways that would make sense to any unbeliever walking in off the street.

The purpose for that is not just for the unbeliever who walks into our church.  The bigger and perhaps more important purpose is that we will equip our churches to use words that the unbelieving world will recognize.  Without telling them how to communicate the Gospel, we will be bestowing upon them a language, a vocabulary, and a communication style, whereby they will be unconsciously equipped to speak to an unbelieving world.

A word to those who preach and teach: Let us be careful to not use decades old “Christianese” simply because that is what we grew up on.  May the younger generation of pastors not only use the Christian sub culture language of their generation. May we read and listen widely, that we may adopt the language of this generation, so that we might more effectively preach the Gospel, and equip our listeners to share the Gospel in a language that can be understood by the world around us.

3 replies
  1. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    Hi, Bill – can you unpack this a little bit? If it doesn’t equip believers to live in and relate to the real world, is it good Bible teaching? Over the weekend, as you know, Jon Courson’s constant refrain was ‘Christ and Him crucified.’ How do you think a message like the one Jon brought equips believers to interact effectively with the world?

    Was the person you quoted meaning that the Bible teaching of the church doesn’t equip believers intellectually to interact with the world?

    If so, I wonder what Paul would say about this? He wrote, as you know, about the not many noble, mighty, wise… But I can’t help think that holy living, moral engagement, and ministry at the level of social justice is a powerful intellectual argument of the church for God aimed at conscience. Paul himself wasn’t won over by intellectual/philosophical arguments. He was won by the Holy Spirit as he viewed the beauty of Christ in those he persecuted. Beautiful lives, Christian lives are a powerful testimony and apologetic. The church rescued infants left to die and came to orphans and widows in their distress. The moral witness of the church has toppled some of its harshest intellectual critics.

    Anyway – what kind of teaching was the author of the quote referring to?

    Reply
  2. Bill Walden
    Bill Walden says:

    Tim,

    If a pastor was teaching his church about living in the power if the Spirit, but constantly used the phrase, “Live under the spout where the glory comes out”…that might be what the listener walks away with. It is easy to latch onto a catch phrase without really understanding the depths of the truth.

    That phrase indeed might make sense to the Believer.
    It might be something they can latch on to, and remember.
    It might mean something to them.

    But quoting that phrase won’t translate into much if the Christian is seeking to explain the benefits and blessings of Christian living. The Christian needs to be able to explain such an experience in words that the listener can relate to.

    The preacher that I was alluding to spoke about the narrow mindedness that many Believers have, as far as being able to navigate culture. We are often unwilling to be come all things to all men in regards to learning the language of their sub culture.

    As far as what Jon shared with us this weekend…he repeatedly used the phrase, “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified”. Simply quoting that verse to the man on the street can be used by God, certainly, but how much better to unpack what that phrase means.

    I mentioned in our break out session that Jon actually helped take many scenarios and demonstrate and explain what that phrase means. He used critical thinking, Biblical knowledge, and good application to show how the answer to each problem in life is “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified”. The only thing I wished he would have emphasized would have been something like this: “Guys, you know the answer, but you need to be able to take a person from point A to point J. You need to be able to show how the answer is Jesus Christ, and Him crucified”.

    Jon demonstrated the process, but I suggest that simply quoting the verse is less than what we could do in order to help someone. That isn’t a comment on the shortcoming of quoting God’s word. It is more a comment on the inability of Christians to be critical thinkers.

    If our men walked away from the conference knowing that verse, then that is the first step of having it be a life defining truth.

    But if they can’t explain it, and walk a friend through the same steps that Jon took, then the simple quoting of that phrase falls short in sharing with others, in my opinion.

    I think of a man like Timothy Keller, who can and does speak to large audiences of unbelievers. He speaks on college campuses in front of mixed theological crowds. He doesn’t need to depend on the language of his sub culture in order to explain the benefits of following Jesus. He uses scripture of course, but uses more than scripture. He speaks the language of the culture at large.

    People will be less effective in winning that crowd over if they depend on sub culture cliches that the crowd doesn’t understand.

    Tim, I agree with you about the power of a holy life, a loving attitude, etc. Those characteristics are part of a universal language that is known more by the heart than the head. In saying what I did, I do not diminish the power of godly living.

    That being true…there is still a need for not restricting one’s language to the language of a preferred sub culture. I am able to share Jesus in Spanish and in English. I have doubled my ability to accomplish the Great Commission.

    I submit that the better I can communicate with people, the better I can minister and share the Gospel. I think part of that is being willing to learn the languages of others, and not speak only the sub sub sub culture language of Cornerstone Napa.

    Reply

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