September 20, 2007

Watch your Language!

Church Marketing Sucks has a great piece entitled "Watch Your Language!" Here are some highlights:
Few things make people feel like an outsider more than the language used around them. If this is true, how does the language we use in church make our visitors feel? To avoid excluding people we have to pay attention to verbose nomenclature that we use in our worship service--since this is the way most people are introduced to our church.

There are two basic categories of obscure words we use--ancient and Christian-ese. Ancient words are the most obvious examples but are difficult because we think we know what they mean, but have a hard time coming up with a clear definition. For instance, a song might sing to "Jehovah"--which we know as a name for God. It's beside the fact that this is a mistransliteration of "Yahweh" that comes to us via the German language--what do you think this word makes your first time visitors think of when they visit? Probably the people who woke them up on Saturday morning in order to hand them a tract.

The King James Bible has had an immense influence in our culture, and it continues to influence even the most contemporary church service. If you've ever been in a church that has tried to sing, "As the Deer," you know what I mean--half the church "pants" for water while the other half "panteth." Not only is this awkward for a visitor, but it is confusing too. This goes for the "thees" and "thous" as well. You might consider King James English more poetic or pious than the common vernacular but, since none of us speak in this way any longer, it excludes our visitors.
Amen! We need to give much more thought to our language choices so that we do not accidentally--and tragically--drive people away.

2 comments:

  1. Chuck9:10 AM

    Brian,

    Some people--brought up like me--might be turned off by titles that contain words we were taught not to say, such as this church marketing pub you're referring to. (Should we say "Sin sucks!" to a congregation with visitors?)

    Anyway, I chuckle at the irony of a such-titled media schooling the church on watching its language.

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  2. Thanks for the comment! You make a good observation. While "thee" and "thou" may turn off some people, "sucks" may turn off others. Watching our language takes a lot of continual work. The slight difference I see, however, in these cases is that while "sucks" may shock/offend people, "thee" "thou" may not even be understood. At least the former communicates, but even then it is not always appropriate to use. We must always think of our audience.

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