Thursday, April 14, 2011

On Saying "The Church"

The language we use reflects what we think about things. It also impacts what other people think we believe.

Sometimes even the small words that come out of our mouths say quite a bit. As it relates to the church, the word "the" carries a great deal of meaning.

When we say "the church," we instantly imply unity, togetherness, brotherhood, and oneness in Christ. We are focusing on all the people of God. In this case, the word "the" is all-encompassing. It creates a picture of all of the redeemed in community and togetherness before our Lord Jesus Christ. "The church" suggests harmony, brotherhood and sisterhood, joy, peace, encouragement, and support.

By comparison, when we say "my church," "our church," "their church," etc., we immediately point out (whether this is our intent or not) divisions within the body of Christ. Logically some Christians are part of "their church" while others are not. This wording suggests separation as opposed to unity. It makes us think of small groups of Christians instead of the church as a whole. It creates a picture of a church splintered into thousands of little parts.

I realize that sometimes we say, for example, "our church" simply for clarification. We might say something like, "This Sunday our church is gathering at the ______'s house." This is understandable and probably unavoidable. However, we would all do well to make a concerted attempt to speak more about "the church" and less about "our church." Language carries real meaning. The words we use show what we think is important.

What might this sound like? In talking with others, we could say, "I love the church" instead of "I love my church." Or, "Getting together with the church is awesome" instead of "Getting together with our church is awesome."

I'm not suggesting that we censor our speech, and I don't want to imply something artificial. Rather, I'm suggesting that we think about the importance of our speech as it reflects unity within the greater body of Christ. Since the phrase "the church" implies unity it seems like it would be a good idea to try to use it more often.


Tim A said...

I use the words "the saints" when I speak of meeting for fellowship, not "the church" or "my church". Church has far too much bad baggage. I use it when I have to, but not otherwise.

Eric said...


I can see why you do that. You are certainly right that the word "church" carries a lot of baggage. When you say "saints" do people know what you are talking about?

Tim A said...

Maybe not. Maybe there is baggage there also.