Church Speak

Sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ is a real challenge in our contemporary culture. Translating God’s message from “church language” into a language that everyone can understand is not always easy for people who have grown up in the church.

How can we find new ways to bring the message of grace, love, and forgiveness to people who are hungry for true meaning in lives that are often filled with pain and chaos?

How can we offer comfort to people who want to hear a healing word, but often cannot see past the traditional language of “the church”?

How can we live authentic lives as followers of Christ and help people see beyond the hypocrisy of those who “play church,” into the hearts of those who “live Christ” every day?

These are just some of the questions we will try to answer in a conversation about sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are all called to share this message; are you in jeopardy of failing to answer God’s call?

Join us for this series and invite a friend to come with you. This is the perfect time to bring someone to church who is seeking something special for their lives that is now missing. This series is for regular church-goers and those who haven’t seen the inside of a church in many years. This is a time to talk about what following Christ looks like in the 21st Century and listen for healing words from God.

“Church Speak”
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Sunday, January 15, 2012 – Second Sunday after the Epiphany
#1 in a Series of 6: Are You in Jeopardy?

I chose The Message version of our text this morning because I think it offers us a glimpse of what I am going to start talking about today.  This version of the text expresses Paul’s ideas in language that is more familiar to our contemporary culture…More traditional translations include language that isn’t part of our normal vocabulary.  For the next six weeks we are going to be looking at ways of translating “church language” into a language that everyone can understand.  We are going to be looking at ways to share the Good News with people who may be reluctant to hear it.

Our opening video today offered an image of the state of the church in America and how many people really look at the church and religion.  We need to find ways to speak into the culture in which we live by speaking a language that is more within the vocabulary of our society.  Remember what Paul said to the Romans: But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?  Unless we tell people in ways that they can understand, they still will not be able to receive the message of Jesus Christ and respond to his invitation.

Let us pray…Lord, you challenge us with your Word; challenge us to understand, to learn, to grow, and to be better people.  Help us to hear your words of challenge and to find your guidance today.  Empower us to be your people and to share your Word in the world. Amen.

Since we’re talking about new ways to reach people who are not familiar with church, the Worship Planning Team decided to have a little fun and play Jeopardy…Most of you are familiar with this popular television game show…It has become a cultural icon and nearly everyone can identify its famous “Think Music.”  The way it works is – The answer to a question appears on the screen and you have to come up with the correct question to fit the answer.  For example, the answer might be: “His philanthropy and vision is well-known in the community he founded west of downtown Tulsa.” The correct question is: “Who is Charles Page.”

Each week we’re going to look at part of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and talk about how we can find ways to bring the message of grace, love, and forgiveness to people who are hungry to hear it…The problem is that too many church people are speaking the wrong language and cannot be understood…If we cannot make our message clear we are in jeopardy of failing in our mission to transform lives in the Name of Jesus Christ.

Let’s play Jeopardy!

Today we will be working with the category: “January 15”…There are only five questions…

Our first question should be fairly easy…
The answer is – Christians called to share this message from Jesus Christ.
[Q: What is the Good News?]

This is fundamental to our task as followers of Jesus…We are sent into the world to show and tell people that Jesus offers us hope, healing, and forgiveness…This is really Good news, but people won’t hear it if we don’t bring the message in ways they can understand…Standing on the corner shouting that the end is near won’t get the message across…Excluding people who don’t think like us or look like us is not part of the Good News…Assuming that everyone has read the Bible and knows its famous stories is unrealistic…We need to do better.

So, the next answer is: This language is difficult for the un-churched to understand.
[Q.: What is “church-speak”?]

Most of us understand what we’re talking about when we use words like sin, grace, and eternal life…However, there are a whole lot of people out there who have no idea what we’re talking about – OR WORSE – they have a wrong understanding of the words we use.  There are millions of people who do not know the stories of the Bible that we grew up with and from which we learned valuable moral lessons.  Tons of folks don’t know who Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were – and they don’t care!  We have to be sensitive to the fact that the majority of people in America today did not grow up in church and do not have the same frame of reference as we do…In fact, there are often people sitting in our pews who are not as familiar with our favorite Bible heroes as we want to believe…We need to find ways to talk to these people without making them feel stupid for not knowing what we know.

Here’s a good example of a biblical word that is no longer very effective:
Some versions of Paul’s letter use this ancient word to describe sexual sin.
[Q.: What is fornication?]

The first problem with a word like this is that it is no longer in common use…Just saying the word elicits a variety of responses…Most people think they know what it means, though few have ever looked it up.  Most people outside the church associate this word and others like it, with religious fanatics who are prudish and intolerant.  What Paul wants us to hear in this text is not a message of intolerant exclusivism, but rather one of love and respect.

That brings us to our next question…
Paul says that someone else really owns our physical and our spiritual bodies.
[Q.: Who is God?]

Graeme has been teaching a series to our youth about God’s plan for us as it relates to intimate relationships and sex…That’s what Paul is talking about in today’s text…God created us and knows we are sexual beings…God also has a plan for how human sexuality is supposed to work…So Paul cautions us against using our sexuality to satisfy our selfish desires with no regard for the fact that God owns all of us and has a better plan for us…It’s not that sex is forbidden, it is that sex is part of God’s overall plan that also involves love, respect, and commitment…It is important to know that people notice how Christians behave…The image we project is a vital part of our Christian witness…Paul says: “Let people see God in and through your body.”

That brings us to our final jeopardy question for the day…
People want and need to hear this from authentic Christians.
[Q.: What is my witness?]

People really do not want to hear age-old platitudes couched in ancient stories of David’s heroism, Jonah’s reluctance, or Job’s patience…People want to hear the truth about what it means to you to be a follower of Christ…Your friends don’t care about what happened to some old dead guy 5,000 years ago…Your friends want to hear your story and find out how your life has changed because of your faith…They want you to be authentic and share your hardships, your successes, and your failures…They want to know that, in spite of everything, you were able to get through whatever life hurled at you because of your faith in Jesus Christ.

That is not “church-speak”…It is your authentic voice sharing the most important story of your life with someone you care enough about to offer them what you have…That’s all it takes to share the Good News – be yourself and tell the truth…Only then can you stay out of jeopardy.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Amen