Wednesday, August 31, 2005


I don't think I want to mimic the way many pastors speak. This past Sunday as I sat in the service I began to think about the language which pastors are expected to use. "God is working in this church." "This series is going to be life-transforming (whatever that means)." "I believe God is going to transform our society."

I suppose there is nothing inherently wrong with this type of language (although perhaps there are some theological misgivings). Most of it is probably true. But as I have been exposed to different parts of ministry I am beginning to realize that I do not want to speak like the typical pastor. It is as if there is a certain role which the pastor must fit in most churches. There is a theological role, a terminology role, an appearance role. Again, it is not that the demands on these roles are necessarily awry, but sometimes I feel as if pastors know what it is people want them to be and they become it.

To be quite honest as I listened to the introductory comments by the pastor this past Sunday and I began to think about these things I could not determine exactly what it was that I disliked. I also found no substitute terminology. I suppose one thing I realized is that I could have put this pastor in a number of churches across the nation and heard the very same sort of statements. Is that good or bad? Universality is a good thing but would it be more appropriate to label this sort of thing uniformity? Conformity?

Many pastors I have met speak differently when they are in front of a congregation than when they are speaking one-on-one with a person. Obviously there is a differentiation that will occur between an individual and a body of believers but sometimes pastoral communication via Sunday morning services seems so generic.

I do not intend this to be a broad generalization of all pastors. In fact, there are probably more who do not fit this description. Pastors have a difficult calling, no doubt, as I have experienced and will continue to experience. It will take more analyzation to determine what exactly it is that spurned these cognitive wheels regarding pastoral language. As for now, I want to be a pastor who speaks strangely. And by strangely I do mean something different than what I just described. And by something different than what I just described I mean...


Jonathan Yen said...

Hmm, I guess I've been fortunate to attend churches that haven't exactly fit the sterotypical pastor role.

Too many people, I think, want to continue with tradition, though important, can really repel non-believers.

I've heard arguments that we shouldn't adapt to the world because it is evil. I think that's preposterous. Paul himself adapted to the culture and environment he was sharing the good news in. As long as we ourselves don't begin sinning as a result, we are fine. I think it's perfectly fine to write worship lyrics to heavy metal music if it helped people to come to Christ. I always am reminded that God uses all things for his glory.

So, in a nutshell, I agree with your post. The goal is to reach out to those who are lost, and while building up those who are already Christians is just as important, we cannot reach the lost ones by continually using Christian jargon.

If you ever have a chance to goto East Lansing on a weekend, I really recommend you goto Riverview. It's such a great atmosphere geared towards the college students and I think you'll find the pastors particularly... out of the ordinary :).

Kevin K. Wright said...

Okay Ben, enough equivocations! Geesh, you're as bad as Kurt (worst roomate ever...) Anyway, I like your line about a pastor who speaks "strangely." Very nice touch. I admire your drive to be set apart from "the norm." However, in your drive to be dynamic (for I think this is what you are hinting towards) be careful not to offend those who are not quite as gifted. You are gifted that is for sure. Others perhaps are not as much so. So, speak strangely and wonderfully all the time communicating the good news of the kingdom of God to those who are literally dying to hear it. Godspeed my friend.

Nathan Hart said...

I believe that if we, as ministers, have our noses and hearts in scripture every day, our speech will begin to reflect the phrases and language therein. Ministers with their noses and hearts in "Christianeze" will reflect Christianeze ("how's your walk with the Lord?" etc).

The language of God's love knows no cultural bounds.

Grace to you and peace,

Brandon M. Brown said...

Sorry I'm a little slow. But I agree. As a youth pastor, I try to say words such as "sucks" and "crap" occasionally in front of entire congregations. Just to make it clear that I'm not a conformist. Maybe that's why I didn't get hired at a couple of churches I applied to...Okay. I don't do that. But I do deviate from typical pastoral language as I think you are describing it. And I think that's a good thing. So rock on. And it's good to see you again. Enjoy the married life.