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Language and theology

June 7, 2007

I have been thinking about language, communication, and culture a lot lately. I recently started a new job where I have been exposed to a lot of new language and acronyms that are foreign to me. It has taken a lot of  work to learn what others are communicating and to understand intentions and meanings.

About sixteen months ago I started attending a new church. I have struggled at times to understand some of the communication in that church. Sometimes it has felt like people were speaking a language I didn’t understand which has been an experience I have never had with Christians before.

As Christians, we divide ourselves up by denominations, or belief systems by claiming to be Catholic, Protestant, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist, or Evangelical, Fundamental, Charismatic, Pentecostal, Missional, Seeker, etc. I have been very hesitant to try to learn the label my church would use to classify themselves. A few weeks ago that label become more obvious to me, and I wish it hadn’t. I wish I didn’t know how to describe the “language” they spoke. I now find myself wrestling with whether I share the beliefs of other followers of that theology.

Why do we divide ourselves based on small beliefs? Does our theology bring people together or divide the church and break unity? Why do we have to use labels to describe who we are or what we believe instead of just calling ourselves Christian? Does our language include people and draw them in or leave them on the outskirts confused? If someone doesn’t share our exact theology are we keeping them from serving, giving, or ministering in our churches just because we view or worship God in a different way?

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