Tuesday, February 10, 2009

De-pluralizing "Church"

I realize the following could be construed as merely "semantics" but I really think the move to de-pluralize the term "Church" would be a great first step toward realizing the unity we so often forget is there already.

And so, with that out of the way...

Let's stop referring to local gatherings of Christians on Sundays as "small-c churches."

Instead, let's call these meetings+people "gatherings" or "communities" or "congregations" and leave "big-C Church" to refer to all those who've professed and followed the faith in times past, these days, and days to come.

NOTE: Same goes for the buildings we meet in on Sundays. They can be called: homes, community centers, pubs, parks, fields....anything but "Churches."

End rant/request.

(I would love some feedback on this one...comments are open.)

10 comments:

wilsonian said...

You know, it's been interesting to hear some of the reactions since I stopped attending Sunday services (in a 'church' building). It's been said that I've "left the Church". Nothing could be further from the truth...

NathanColquhoun said...

I've made a conscious effort to call our building "the space" and sunday meetings our "gatherings"

marva dawn said that if you talk bad theology then you live bad theology...and it makes complete sense. Why not just change the way we talk now as to not confuse our kids when they are older, no sense in having to explain to them that we call this the church and call this the church but really this is the church....

James Kingsley said...

thanks nathan: that dawn quote is genius.

Kyle Martin said...

but then what would I tell people where I went on Sunday?:)

saying I went to church is easier.

As long as people are going to be lazy in language, our Christianity is going to maintain labels and church as a building and contribute to our assumed irrelevance in our culture.

I hope that made sense as I am a little sleep deprived.

ron cole said...

James, this sort of ties in with what Nathan was say, It's a quote from a friend in the UK...

Many people get easily confused about what ‘church’ is. They think it’s a building, or a religious institution, or a club for people who “enjoy that kind of thing”. It may indeed need structure, organisation and devotees. But it isn’t about them. ‘Church’, rather, is the name of a public space for risky, experimental living – for doing crazy stuff like forgiving others, offering hospitality to oddballs, sharing what we have in common and with others, learning how to live justly, and re-telling key stories of redemption and change. I’m paraphrasing some key elements from the gospels here.

I frankly don't like the word period, its a tattered suitcase filled with way too much dirty laundry.

James Kingsley said...

thanks ron. there's some great lines/thoughts in there!

onEnterFrame said...

I sort of like the duality or the word 'church' I think the two meanings combined have more weight.
And... I would want to be careful not to be too over vigilant 'correcting' folks who use the word incorrectly as that is type of thing that might turn a seeker away.

James Kingsley said...

thanks for the comments onEnterFrame.

i totally appreciate the caution of "over correcting." i definitely think this is a "change by example/use" rather than "edict" kind of idea - realizing, of course that this post itself bends that rule right off the bat ;)

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I can definitely see the merit in wanting to use language intentionally in the hopes of reminding ourselves of the truth about our unity as Christ's body.
However, I was brought up in one particular 'fellowship' that was quite dogmatic about this very distinction (always calling our gatherings 'meetings' and the buildings we met in 'halls'), but that intentionally segregated itself from all other 'congregations' based on various doctrinal differences of opinion.
I can agree with the idea behind the quotation that if you talk bad theology then you live bad theology; I just don't know if we can imply the opposite, that if you talk good theology then you live good theology.
Now, of course, this is no reason not to try... we can always hope!

Queen Bing

James Kingsley said...

the queen bing responds! sweet to see you 'round these parts C.

thanks for pointing out the extremes within which even a refined semantic use can move from helpful to harmful...