Words are so interesting. Over time, they change meaning, lose effectiveness or develop a stigma. When it comes to faith, we see this all the time. Pick up C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity and the opening chapter will tell you how the word Christian has lost it’s meaning, and this book was written decades ago. Really, it’s only been the last 2-3 years that I’ve replaced the term Christian for the words Christ follower. Sure, it may just be semantics, but the term seems to be much more intentional about meaning in a culture where the word Christian conjures up some many different definitions and emotions. Who knows, maybe in a few more years, there will be another term Christ followers are using.
Don’t get hung up on the words though, it’s really not about me, it’s about those I hope to influence. Without compromising convictions or beliefs, it’s my job to connect with people in their reality. If finding a unique way to describe what I am about in life that actually engages a non-believer, I’m 100% behind it. I think we need to constantly analyze the words and terms we use while trying to be relevant with the people around us. \
One word we don’t use at my church at all is discipleship. Is it me or is it just so churchy? In addition, there are too many definitions for discipleship. To some churches, it’s a class. For others it’s a group book study. For others it’s a multi-year one on one relationship and to others it’s a program. Many Christ followers have awkward or negative thoughts associated with this term while even some of those outside the church see discipleship as cult-like and mindless devotion to a freaky cause. The term discipleship may need to go the way of the Dodo.
So what’s another word? We use the word transform or transformation. Isn’t that really the point of discipleship, to transform or change? Lots of people are in “discipleship,” but they never change. Isn’t that an oxymoron? It’s a fairly specific word that describes something that could be measured, right? The reason I like this word too is that it isn’t specific to any particular method. People are discipled/transformed by various methods, but just becasue someone is being discipled doesn’t mean they’ve changed.
What do you think of this word? Is it one you’ll add to your vocabulary? Can you think of any other church “inside” words that need to be transformed?
Join the Daily Dispatch!
If you're a kidmin content junky... submit your name and email and you will get the following:
• Daily updates from the blog
• Weekly blog summaries with exclusive content
• Access to amazing resources
ALL DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX!
Kenny, we also avoid “discipleship” and use the term gospel transformation. But the term discipleship has a broader use (the whole Christian life) and a narrower use (learning/ apprenticing as a Jesus follower who studies the Bible and puts it into practice).
At Sojourn, we want to see the gospel change (transform) everything–ourselves as individuals, our church, our city, and our world. As this gospel makes us new, we have new gospel identities. The gospel makes us worshipers, family, missionaries, servants, and learners (or apprentices/disciples).
So, we use gospel transformation for the broader use & learners/disciples for the narrower use.
I like it. It’s not the wording we’d use at Gateway (different crowd), but essentially the same idea.
Sorry for the creepy picture on this post… this monk gives me the heebie jeebies.
.-= Kenny´s last blog ..And then there were four =-.
We tend to use the term discipleship more as a span of time like the first few years after someone becomes a Christ follower and this is under the greater umbrella of the term Spiritual Formation. Spiritual Formation involves every kind of catalyst and form that you can think of to get us closer to Jesus ….think: coaching, classes, seminars, small groups, personal growth models, “discipleship programs”, retreats, etc. All this involves strategic thinking in what we call “Spiritual Formation.”
I certainly agree that there are some words that we should avoid when talking with “outsiders”. However, I have to say that using different words to say the same thing is kinda like putting a fresh coat of paint on a rusty old car. The paint may be shiny, but the rust is still there. I agree with Paul who said he became all things to all people so that some might be saved, but are their really people outside the church that are saying, â€œOh, youâ€™re a Christ Follower. Good, for a minute there I thought you might have been a Christian.â€ The unchurched are a lot smarter then we give them credit for. I donâ€™t think it is the terms we use that they have a problem with, but rather the meaning that they SEE us giving these words through the way we live.
Ok, I will now admit that it is really the Christ Follower-vs-Christian thing that bugs me. I think that discipleship is a process that includes a number of things, such as classes, group Bible study, one-on-one relationship, personal Bible study. I also believe that Jesus modeled the importance of discipleship. So, if a given church is doing discipleship, but chooses to call it something different because it better fits your community, then I am all for it. We still use the term discipleship. However, we use it in staff meetings, and certain other environments where the people involved understand that we are talking about a process.