Have you ever been accused of “being one of them”? Years ago, at a Church of Christ/Christian Church preachers’ meeting, I was sitting across the table from a preacher when he asked me where I was the “pastor” at. I responded, “I am the evangelist at . . . “ In a sarcastic tone of voice he responded, “Oh, you are one of them”. I guess that I am “one of them”! And quite frankly, I am proud to be “one of them”!
One of the things that has frustrated me the most in ministry is when other evangelists cannot get the terminology right. I heard once about a “pastors and elders” conference being held at one of our Bible colleges. As I reflected in my mind about the Scriptural teaching on eldership, I thought it was redundant to say “pastors and elders” seeing that the words are talking about the same thing! Words convey thoughts and ideas and are a great way to teach.
Being practical with teaching and preaching is an important part of ministry. As I have shared many of those great Restoration principles with the congregation, some have inquired how to put those principles to work in daily life. How can we share those principles with the people we come in contact with?
I keep coming back to the fact that it starts with the words we use. Words are a simple way to teach people outside of the church basic biblical truths. One of the slogans that came out of the early days of the American Restoration Movement was, “Do Bible things in Bible ways and call Bible things by Bible names”. This is a simple principle that can help us teach others about what New Testament Christianity is all about.
Here is a simple illustration of how this works from the church office: A salesman called the office one morning and asked to talk with the “pastor”. Pat, our secretary, politely told him that none of the pastors are available because the word pastor in the bible is referring to the elders of the church and none of them are in the building. She did not go back to the Greek language and explain how the word “poimen” is used in the New Testament for elders. She didn’t have to! Pat went on to inform the gentleman on the line the “evangelist” was in, if he wanted to talk to him. What a great opportunity to teach that basic restoration principle for calling “Bible things by Bible names”. Of course the salesman was confused as he talked with me. Towards the end of the call, he called me “pastor”. Then he tried to correct himself when he said, “I mean elder”.
Words are so important and a great way to teach. A person does not need to know the Greek and the Hebrew to do it. Neither does a person need a Bible college education to teach using words. In fact, I believe that some Bible college educations have created some of the mess we are in with bad terminology!
Here is another illustration to make the point:
Several years ago a young man, who knew that I was a preacher, came up to me and asked me where was “my church”. I looked surprised at him and responded, “I didn’t know that I had a church”. I kind of caught him by surprise because he begin to wonder if I was still preaching. I told him that I did still preach—but I preach at Christ’s church and not mine. As the elders at Bolivar, PA, would continually remind the congregation that it wasn’t their church! Jesus died for the church! The elders did not die for the church! Simple words that taught a great lesson!
Someone once got confused with a visiting song evangelist. This confused member of the congregation told one of the children to stop “running in the church”. The song evangelist, teaching using words, simply said that it was impossible to “run in the church”. He went on to explain that the church is the people and you cannot run in the people (church). Simple words teaching a simple Biblical truth.
Scott Sheridan, a preacher friend of mine in Seattle, once wrote an article titled: Sloppy Terminology means Sloppy Theology. How true that is! Scott writes:
The Church has become extremely tolerant of sloppy terminology and sloppy theology. I hear it almost everywhere I go, everything I read, people I speak with, etc. I am not talking about major issues, necessarily. Although you can hear some out-and-out heresy in some of our pulpits, that is not what I am talking about. This article deals with some sloppy terminology that good-hearted people use from time to time. Nevertheless, just because we may not be discussing major heresies does not mean that it is not an important matter.
Scott hit the nail on the head! Unfortunately, the worse our terminology gets, the worse our theology can get. We start to actually believe the things we are saying. Or we say that they are not that important anymore. Or we say that they are just words. I have been hearing this about hymns during my entire eighteen years of ministry. I can point out how unbiblical the words to a hymn are, and the response is: “it is just a song”. Sloppy terminology means sloppy theology. It definitely can eventually lead to sloppy theology! Be careful of the words you use! If you use the wrong ones, you may convey a thought that is not Biblical.
Just “one of them” with you too, I hope!