Thursday, December 08, 2005

Words we use in church: "Just"

Though I would not consider myself the most eloquent of men, nor one with any kind of satisfactory vocabulary, there are many words we use in church (speaking of the evangelical church at large) that puzzle me. One of these words is "just." Here I am not talking about "the just" as in Romans 1:17, but as in "only" or "merely."

Let me give you some examples of how we use the word "just" in church:

"I just want to encourage you to attend the Sunday evening service tonight . . . "

"We are just trying to worship the Lord the best way we know how . . . "

"I just want to know that we're happy you're here . . . "

"The Lord just asks you to let him into your heart . . ."

"You just have to believe and pray for the Lord to save you . . ."

Getting the picture? Now I am sure that there are churches out there that never use the word "just" in this sense or the contexts I listed above. I am generalizing a bit here. But sometimes we Christians can get pretty mousy about the gospel. We want to make it as easy as possible. Our language has taken us to a place where we no longer understand the words of our Lord like those found in Luke 14,

26If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my
disciple. 27And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. 34Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? 35It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.


This is something our Lord said "after great multitudes" started coming to him (v 25). If we had great multitudes following us, we would probably say something like, "boy, we're just happy to have you with us today."

We have become so apologetic that we have forgotten that this is the gospel and the Lord God we serve. We sound like this Christianity thing is just another option on the shelf. We make it sound as if God is not really going to demand that every knee bow and every tongue confess. We are stumbling over ourselves not to offend any possible living creature with the claims of the gospel. They can find happiness in so many other things, why should they bother to find it here?

I am not astute enough to pin-point why we speak in this way. It is probably a number of things. Certainly part of it is our fear of man, and our desire for numbers. Probably part of what drives us to speak this way is that we are so eager to see the salvation of souls, that we do not want to "step on any toes." We want to grease the floor so that the unregenerate will slip right into heaven. The Lord will take care of all that "discipleship stuff" after we get the poor man saved first. So we hope.

But then we start using the word "just" with our church members. "We just want to encourage you to come to prayer meeting." Is this what pastoring has become today, just offering a list of possible things to do? "I just want to encourage you to be more faithful in prayer." All we do anymore, it seems, is "just encourage" one another.

There is a ditch on the other side of the "just" ditch. I am not advocating we beat the unregenerate and lax laity with some kind of set of legalistic commandments. But I am concerned about how much time we spend apologizing over the demands of God on people's lives. He does not want "just trying" worship, he demands our reverent worship. He does not "just encourage" men to repent, he demands repentance. We should compel them to come in, and do it in a way that lifts up the gospel in all of its high demands--unfiltered, undistilled, unsoftened. When we do this responsibly, we can cofidently rest in the work of the Spirit to save those he will.

But there is yet a greater danger. Our overuse of words like "just" threatens us with a terrible result, that we begin to view the Christian life in a distorted fashion. The believers in our midst begin to view Christianity differently when we grow lax in how we speak and worship. The Christian culture changes, because the words have changed.

Thus may we guard against careless expressions, and pray that we would so understand and love the gospel and the God of the gospel that we proclaim as it is meant to be proclaimed--lovingly, boldly, and completely.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Joel said...

The use of the word "just" is ripe for some sarcasm. Perhaps you have an idea I can just borrow here.

12/08/2005 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

I think Weaver would say it is because progress has no place for the sermonic word; to gain a hearing we feel we must emasculate our rhetoric.

12/08/2005 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Todd, you're beginning to sound like Weaver. Please explain (I am slow of ears).

12/08/2005 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

Progress, says Weaver, is the "god-term" of the age. The immanent is a dim-witted idea -- only the imminent is real. All is sheer becoming; presentism denies the sheen of reality to anything but what is happening right now. The goal is to go along with change; man as animal must react to external stimuli in a profitable way. Profitable, that is, insofar as the man of progress is able to conquer nature, subduing it to live a life of comfort.

Rhetoric is an intrusion. It is based on values, i.e., an order of goods. Such sentiment has no place in this view of man. It demands recognition of values that hold man morally accountable for his actions, and thus represents an obstacle to progress.

Joel, jump in and fix anything I just broke!

12/08/2005 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Okay . . .

So you are saying that when I say we should speak in different ways, I am appealing to something that the modern man is going to reject because of his love for progress and infatuation with the immanent.

12/08/2005 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

Pretty much -- but that would be imminent. Our culture is all about amassing wealth, and buddy you're just getting in the way with serious talk. Speech is much more profitable if it is banal grease in the gears of the Great Machine.

12/08/2005 06:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

I thought your first observation, Todd, was to the point. I think it was put exceedingly well. I should put it on the top of my blog.

Weaver is not reduced. Ryan should get a handle on the Weaver opus. We need to speak like Weaver, without requiring elaborations, high chairs or training wheels.

12/08/2005 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I would agree with that, I must confess.

12/08/2005 07:05:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

I've never been on the top of a blog before. That would be exceedingly cool.

12/09/2005 02:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Van said...

This just really reminds of like, you know, the worm in the brain analogy found in Richard Mitchell's Less than Words Can Say. Really, cool, huh?

12/11/2005 08:02:00 PM  

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Immoderate: Words we use in church: "Just"

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Words we use in church: "Just"

Though I would not consider myself the most eloquent of men, nor one with any kind of satisfactory vocabulary, there are many words we use in church (speaking of the evangelical church at large) that puzzle me. One of these words is "just." Here I am not talking about "the just" as in Romans 1:17, but as in "only" or "merely."

Let me give you some examples of how we use the word "just" in church:

"I just want to encourage you to attend the Sunday evening service tonight . . . "

"We are just trying to worship the Lord the best way we know how . . . "

"I just want to know that we're happy you're here . . . "

"The Lord just asks you to let him into your heart . . ."

"You just have to believe and pray for the Lord to save you . . ."

Getting the picture? Now I am sure that there are churches out there that never use the word "just" in this sense or the contexts I listed above. I am generalizing a bit here. But sometimes we Christians can get pretty mousy about the gospel. We want to make it as easy as possible. Our language has taken us to a place where we no longer understand the words of our Lord like those found in Luke 14,

26If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my
disciple. 27And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. 34Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? 35It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.


This is something our Lord said "after great multitudes" started coming to him (v 25). If we had great multitudes following us, we would probably say something like, "boy, we're just happy to have you with us today."

We have become so apologetic that we have forgotten that this is the gospel and the Lord God we serve. We sound like this Christianity thing is just another option on the shelf. We make it sound as if God is not really going to demand that every knee bow and every tongue confess. We are stumbling over ourselves not to offend any possible living creature with the claims of the gospel. They can find happiness in so many other things, why should they bother to find it here?

I am not astute enough to pin-point why we speak in this way. It is probably a number of things. Certainly part of it is our fear of man, and our desire for numbers. Probably part of what drives us to speak this way is that we are so eager to see the salvation of souls, that we do not want to "step on any toes." We want to grease the floor so that the unregenerate will slip right into heaven. The Lord will take care of all that "discipleship stuff" after we get the poor man saved first. So we hope.

But then we start using the word "just" with our church members. "We just want to encourage you to come to prayer meeting." Is this what pastoring has become today, just offering a list of possible things to do? "I just want to encourage you to be more faithful in prayer." All we do anymore, it seems, is "just encourage" one another.

There is a ditch on the other side of the "just" ditch. I am not advocating we beat the unregenerate and lax laity with some kind of set of legalistic commandments. But I am concerned about how much time we spend apologizing over the demands of God on people's lives. He does not want "just trying" worship, he demands our reverent worship. He does not "just encourage" men to repent, he demands repentance. We should compel them to come in, and do it in a way that lifts up the gospel in all of its high demands--unfiltered, undistilled, unsoftened. When we do this responsibly, we can cofidently rest in the work of the Spirit to save those he will.

But there is yet a greater danger. Our overuse of words like "just" threatens us with a terrible result, that we begin to view the Christian life in a distorted fashion. The believers in our midst begin to view Christianity differently when we grow lax in how we speak and worship. The Christian culture changes, because the words have changed.

Thus may we guard against careless expressions, and pray that we would so understand and love the gospel and the God of the gospel that we proclaim as it is meant to be proclaimed--lovingly, boldly, and completely.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Joel said...

The use of the word "just" is ripe for some sarcasm. Perhaps you have an idea I can just borrow here.

12/08/2005 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

I think Weaver would say it is because progress has no place for the sermonic word; to gain a hearing we feel we must emasculate our rhetoric.

12/08/2005 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Todd, you're beginning to sound like Weaver. Please explain (I am slow of ears).

12/08/2005 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

Progress, says Weaver, is the "god-term" of the age. The immanent is a dim-witted idea -- only the imminent is real. All is sheer becoming; presentism denies the sheen of reality to anything but what is happening right now. The goal is to go along with change; man as animal must react to external stimuli in a profitable way. Profitable, that is, insofar as the man of progress is able to conquer nature, subduing it to live a life of comfort.

Rhetoric is an intrusion. It is based on values, i.e., an order of goods. Such sentiment has no place in this view of man. It demands recognition of values that hold man morally accountable for his actions, and thus represents an obstacle to progress.

Joel, jump in and fix anything I just broke!

12/08/2005 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Okay . . .

So you are saying that when I say we should speak in different ways, I am appealing to something that the modern man is going to reject because of his love for progress and infatuation with the immanent.

12/08/2005 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

Pretty much -- but that would be imminent. Our culture is all about amassing wealth, and buddy you're just getting in the way with serious talk. Speech is much more profitable if it is banal grease in the gears of the Great Machine.

12/08/2005 06:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

I thought your first observation, Todd, was to the point. I think it was put exceedingly well. I should put it on the top of my blog.

Weaver is not reduced. Ryan should get a handle on the Weaver opus. We need to speak like Weaver, without requiring elaborations, high chairs or training wheels.

12/08/2005 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I would agree with that, I must confess.

12/08/2005 07:05:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

I've never been on the top of a blog before. That would be exceedingly cool.

12/09/2005 02:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Van said...

This just really reminds of like, you know, the worm in the brain analogy found in Richard Mitchell's Less than Words Can Say. Really, cool, huh?

12/11/2005 08:02:00 PM  

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