Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The overuse of adjectives

I learned as a kid through SchoolHouse Rock that adjectives describe persons places or things. I don't really want to get into the overuse of inappropriate adjectives that can be used as nouns, verbs, conjunctions, gerunds and nearly every other part of speech, in the same paragraph by the particularly loquacious and foul-mouthed members of our society.

Rather, I'd like to focus on the adjectives we use in church. There are ways to describe something that are just what country folk would call plain-spoken. For example one could say "Its my car." Or one could say its a "1996 Dodge Intrepid, 3.5 litre V-6." Or one could say its a "hooptie". Or any other number of colorful terms. We do the same thing in church.

There are times that descriptive labels are helpful, and times when they are not. Often it goes to intent, such as calling someone a "fundamentalist Christian." That once was a term that was not pejorative. Now, being called a fundamentalist or "fundy" is an attack on the person's beliefs and character. Couldn't we just call the person a Christian and leave off the descriptor?

While I was in Kansas City I attended three church services in one day. At 8:00 a.m. our Theology and Practice of Worship class attended Christ Church Anglican in Overland Park, KS. It's a very formal Anglican service. At 10:45 a.m. I attended Antioch Church of the Nazarene, where the people I was staying with worship. And at 5:30, our class attended Jacob's Well, an emerging church in Kansas City, MO.

What struck me in each of these churches, from very different traditions, is that God was there. His Spirit was present and he was worshiped by those in attendance. Given that as a base, I've been convicted that I too often use adjectives to label others, especially those who have different beliefs than me. The Lord is calling me to be more ecumenical and refer to fellow believers as Christians, since we are all part of one body. I'm not arrogant enough to think that I have cornered the market on religious belief, nor has my denomination. I believe that most Christians think that their denomination/theology is the best one, but I don't know that we think it is the only one.

To that end, check out the partial list of Christian adjectives below. Feel free to leave additional ones in a comment. It is by no means an exhaustive list.

















These are some words we use to differentiate ourselves. I don't want to go all Rodney King and say "Can't we all just get along" but I do think that the fewer adjectives we include in our vocabulary, the more we will see each others as Christians, just plain, simple Christians, and fellow pilgrims on a journey. And maybe, just maybe, we will all get along a little better.


bishopman said...

You forgot:
Arminian (which isn't exactly the same as Wesleyan)
Four Square

I see what you are getting at. We like to overdefine everything.

I hope you enjoyed your time in KC; it sounds like you did.

Don Bird, pastor at Antioch, was my preaching instructor. He was an excellent teacher, although I never heard him preach.

Roy said...

I didn't hear him either. Chic Shaver was doing revival services. I did meet him though, and he seems like a pretty genuine guy.

Thanks for the additions.