Sunday, June 23, 2013

Speaking of Jesus (Book Review)

"Jesus is the point of the Bible. It all points to him. I don't have to be the Bible's defense attorney. All I have to do is speak of Jesus and He will draw people to himself."

This is a quote from Speaking of Jesus (David Cook, 2011), written by Carl Medearis. This book is excellent! The particular idea above is just an example of the terrific messages found in this book.

Perhaps the greatest part of the book is the chapter about speaking "Christianese." Medearis brilliantly examines our use of certain words. First, he mentions Christian, which only appears three times in the New Testament. The term, he argues, has become so loaded that it means all kinds of things to all kinds of people. In some parts of the world, it has political meaning. In some places, the label identifies a person as someone that "kills Muslims" while in other places it is equated only with Roman Catholicism. There are countless interpretations and assumptions connected to the word Christian, so many so that Medearis simply suggests replacing it with the phrase "follower of Jesus." This is solid advice as it cuts through the clutter to focus on the main thing.

Next, the author takes on the word church, a personal favoite of mine. The Greek word ekklesia often gets translated as "church" in English, but it actually comes from a German word kirke. This is important because church has come to be associated with a building (i.e. "go to church", "be at the church at 9:00", "the church is the house of worship"), which it virtually never meant in the Bible. Originally, the church (ekklesia) simply meant the "called out ones." Essentially, the church is an organism, not an organization. Rather than a place to go, it is more accurately an identity to be expressed. The mis-use of this word is the cause of great confusion today!

Another word is Bible, which interestingly enough, the Bible never calls itself! Then, Medearis addresses the problems with the word evangelism. Here is some of what he says:
"I think part of the reason [that so many Christians are weak in their faith] is
that we tend to promote the evangelism method of spreading Christianity
rather than the discipleship model of Jesus. We get people 'in' and then try
to go out and get others. After a while, everybody's 'in' and nobody has any
idea how to mature in their faith...Making disciples, as opposed to evangelism,
is a journey of relationship that encompasses support, trial and error, and difficulty."

Finally, there is missionary, another word never found in the Bible . This word is like the others in that it carries with it baggage filled with all sorts of preconceived ideas. The point with this whole discussion is that we need to be careful with our vocabulary. As a colleague of mine often says, "Words matter!" Our language is important because we are constantly expressing something, and it may not be what we intend.

It might be wise to ask people to define the terms they use and ask, "What do you mean by that word?" Then, maybe some genuine, fruitful discussion can occur.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh, "go to church" sounds familiar. I like the "follower of Jesus" title you mentioned. "Christian" has become, to me anyway, a political action committee. I want by political leaders to be moral, but not necessarily religious as there as so many different religions in the United States. But I think I would be in the minority there...even as a follower of Jesus.
    You always give me something interesting to think about.