Sunday, July 26, 2015

Using our words

A few weeks ago, my Sunday school lesson was about the prophet Jeremiah. The lesson focused on how young Jeremiah didn't think he could do what God was asking him to do because of his age and inexperience:  

"Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you...Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. (Jeremiah 1:6-7, 9)

I shared with my students that a common prayer I say before teaching or attending a meeting or giving a presentation or correcting a child is "Lord, please put the right words in my mouth." And I mean it, because I know how important words are. 

But lately I've been thinking about how we Christians use our words. Sometimes our words paint a pretty picture but lack action. And sometimes our words are truly harmful and do serious damage in God's name. Like Bob Goff says, "We shouldn't say everyone's invited if we're going to act like they're not welcome when they come." 

Our words matter. Our actions matter more. 

I read an article recently that talks about how we talk about the church across age groups and the "cultural commute" we have to travel to have such conversations. Rev. Erik Parker explains it this way:
"When I go and talk to unchurched millennials about baptism, I often get asked about why faith and church is important to me. This is often is the most exciting part of the conversation. Yet, when I ask churched boomer and older members about why faith and church is important to them, I get uncomfortable looks and uncertain answers."
I often hear criticism that Christians have a vocabulary all their own.
Short break for humor:

But seriously, when it comes to using our words to describe why church is important to us, our words just don't line up with our feelings or actions. Why is that?  Is a a generational thing? Why can't we articulate what church or our faith means to us? We live in a world that can distill our feelings on any number of news or cultural events to 140 characters or less, but we can't tell friends and loved ones about our relationship with God? 
I challenge you to formulate an answer to the question, "why do you go to church?" This response may be the greatest (and only) outreach opportunity you get with a loved one seeking answers. Keep it the length of a Facebook post if you must, but make your words count. I'd love to hear what you come up with--post your answers in the comments! 

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