I've probably been as guilty as most among us. But I'm attempting to change. Yes, we are to be a "peculiar" people, but does this require our own odd (peculiar) set of words and expressions? I was always taught that being peculiar meant we spoke where the Bible spoke and stayed silent concerning other matters. Unfortunately, most of our divisions (a travesty since Jesus prayed so fervently for unity) have revolved around matters about which scripture is stone mute. But that's not my main point here.
One way we have projected peculiarity to others is through an evolved vocabulary system that finds us doing the very opposite that our restoration motto suggests-be silent where the Bible is silent. However, sectarianism has rarely been thwarted by such a little thing as vocabulary. Consider with me a few of our "peculiar" expressions. These are not necessarily listed in order of frequency of expression. Oh yes, I defy you to find any of these comfortable words, as we use them, in scripture.
CHURCH TREASURY. Want to get people hot? Just start talking about what church funds can be spent for (never end a sentence with a preposition). Debates have logged lots of miles over this expression. I read where funds were collected to help needy saints. I read where Christians ought to do good unto all men. I see Jesus feeding hungry people and I seriously doubt that he polled them first regarding their religious affiliations. But I don't find the church treasury we "preach" today. Much energy is consumed on this one doctrinal tenant. "Give! More! Sacrifice! We need to build a bigger barn! We need multiple staff. We need a college. We need a comfortable fellowship (bellyship) hall. We need a gym. Give! More! The preacher needs a raise."
Almost makes some poor devoted Christian widows think maybe they aren't very spiritual. Almost makes some of us suspicious types start to think that some church leaders may care more for buildings and budgets than bibles and baptisms. Think!
THE PULPIT. Roosevelt had a "bully" pulpit. Find one in scripture. With this term comes the necessity of filling it. Who will "fill" our pulpit? Indeed. The real matter is, "Who can fill our building and help us meet our financial obligations?" A pulpit mentality unwittingly perpetuates the notion that professional pulpiteers are required for church growth. Nope. Did Paul or Peter or James or John teach such? Think!
THE PEW. This term and its acceptance has foisted upon us a "spectator" attitude about worship. Members sit in pews while preachers stand behind the pulpits. Our pews are gorgeous. They are padded. They are solid oak. They are very expensive. They help us to "sit on the premises" rather than "stand on the promises." Pew implies laity while pulpit implies clergy. We deny both. But the world can't see any difference.
There isn't anything wrong at all with a big house and comfortable sofas. That's not my point. My point is, we don't need to build a cathedral to have them. Practically every Christian family has a living room with nice couches. You see, we never needed the institutional church in the first place. Just like we never really needed buses when we had all those half empty cars. The institutional church concept forces us to do things we normally would not have considered simply because there was no scriptural basis. Think!
GOSPEL PREACHER. This is redundant! It's like saying, "Wet water." Of course a preacher is a messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's like the expression "born again Christian." It makes some auditors want to ask, "Is there any other kind of Christian?" This expression perpetuates a clergy system among us. It's used almost exclusively to refer to a paid orator who delivers acceptable homilies at the appointed times to the institution known as church. Much, if not most, of what this scribe has heard from the pulpit is not gospel.
Some day I'll take the time to define this. To me much of what is spoken in our assemblies is opinion, politics, moralizing, cute little sermonettes, topical lessons structured more from a clergyman's outline rather than the Holy Spirit's. At the least these gospel sermons could be expositions of scripture. But that might be too easy. Think!
FELLOWSHIP HALL. This is an area either in the edifice or located close to it where "members" can eat and play. For some strange reason the term fellowship has been accepted as a very well defined matter that involved partying and eating and such like. Some of these halls have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars (church treasury dollars, mind you). Give! More! Budget needs! Urgent!
True missionaries beg for funds while we play in Zion. No wonder we shy away from "denominational" vocabulary and cleave to our own. We can't bring ourselves to call a multiple purpose room where we play basketball and eat gospel bird (chicken) a "sanctuary." No, Goad isn't hung up on sports or eating. He loves both. But should I be made to feel guilty if I refuse to buy a "church" bond to erect such sports arenas and dining halls? Once again I ask, "Don't most families have all these at individual homes anyway?" It seems a wasteful (poor stewardship) duplication of expenditures to me. Am I crazy? Don't answer that!
I wasn't going to say this, but since I'm in the mood. When was the last time you heard a sermon on fasting? Feasting, yes, but not fasting. Fellowship halls (this is even what the denominational churches call them) are feasting halls. Isn't gluttony a sin? I've personally seen what comes close to gluttony in our fellowship halls and we even invite the Lord's blessing on this indulgence.
CHURCH BUILDING. Please don't misunderstand me. Many will/do. I'm not saying "places" are sinful. No indeed. God created places. All kinds of them. We build pavilions to protect ourselves. We call them houses, schools, church buildings, court houses and barns. Some men even erect monuments to their egos all in the name of the Lord. We're talking degrees here. We're talking stewardship here.
Why tie up funds for a stained glass living room to house 300 people when those people already have 150 living rooms? Why strap people with another mortgage when money could be spent directly for evangelistic mission work or helping the poor? Why force people into the position of needing to hire a professional to deliver quarterly lessons called "gospel sermons" whereby the attendees are begged for more funds to pay off and/or maintain the cathedral? Why create an "edifice rex mindset? But we already have. We copied our neighbors. And just try to change it. Attempt to suggest a more biblical approach. It ain't popular. Think!
CHRISTIAN COLLEGE. Why didn't the Lord think of this? Goad isn't opposed to education with a Christian emphasis. He sat on the executive board of one Christian school and on the president's councils of two others. Sadly, some of our kids are sent to "our" colleges in hopes that they can be straightened out before it's too late. Unfortunately, by then it usually is already too late. I'm on a tangent. My point? The church should not be saddled with the responsibility of building and funding schools of secular education. Where is scripture for such? I mean, what is the church's mission in life? Many "Christian Colleges" now openly solicit money from churches. Why can't Christians be the leavening influence Jesus called them to be at our state universities and local community colleges? Why cluster away in elite little groups? Are we still the salt of the earth?
Some of "our" schools started by "us" have such a small "church" enrollment that we are stretching the term a bit to even be calling them "Christian" schools. Not to mention the faculty. But, you see, we had to have our own seminaries, too. Just like the big boys.
GOSPEL MEETING. Why do denominational groups get to use "revival" to describe their meetings and "God's people" don't? Revival is a biblical term. Gospel meeting isn't. But that never deterred us before. Unfortunately little "reviving" seems to take place anymore at some (many) of our special gatherings. The saints don't attend, let alone the lost of our communities. Let's face it. Now! The world ain't gonna' be won to Jesus in our petty institutional structures!
A gospel meeting ought to be an occasion where Christians "meet" with non Christians and provide the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. These meetings can take place in living rooms, dining rooms and automobiles. A great place for a gospel meeting is during a picnic at the park. I surely wouldn't refer to a dry and boring lesson on one speaker's pet topic to a one third filled church house of half sleeping brethren as a "Gospel Meeting." Would you?
CHORUS. Why is a choir okay if we call it a chorus? And to say we don't have our own pet words. Better still, why can a chorus sing to us only before or after a prayer that starts or ends worship? Shame on us. Do we have choirs? No indeed! We stand foursquare against such denominations innovations. Lest you draw another wrong conclusion, Goad is five square in favor of occasional special group (chorus, octet, quartet, duet, solo, et al) singing. This will require another time and space.
BROTHER. The term brother as it denotes relationship in Jesus is biblical. The term (big B)Brother as a religious title is not! Jesus condemns such appellations (rabbi, father). Doesn't the principle apply to Brother too when used almost exclusively to identify the preacher. We are slowly getting away from this abuse, yet, sadly we have almost dropped the terms brother and sister altogether. I personally regret this. We are all family members in the Lord. Never forget it!
THE MINISTER. Other expressions just as unscriptural can be substituted: 1) The preacher, 2) Our preacher, 3) The minister, 4) The gospel preacher. I've already dealt with this previously.
INVITATION SONG. Where is the example or command? The closest to it I can think of might be one of David's "invitation" psalms. But some of those ask for the use of instrumental music so that idea won't be easily accepted among us. Denominations call this the altar call. We've found a comfortable substitute for it. I'm not against it. I kinda like it. But few people respond while others sing to them and stare at them. Doubtful it was practiced on Pentecost. If we give much thought to it, it may even be detrimental for some (the shy, visitors, fearful, at all).
The invitation of our Lord isn't a song. It's a message! "Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." We must give thought to better methods of delivering it. I frankly doubt that a room full of strangers is the best place to offer the invitation. Is this maybe something all of us should do in private, one on one, with those we personally teach? Perhaps. Think!
THE AUDITORIUM. Sanctuary sounds too sectarian. Neither are scriptural. "Sanctified" means to be set apart or make holy. A sanctuary is a holy place. All Christians are sanctified and made holy. Thus, any place where God's people are is holy. A home. A car. A restaurant, A place of business. Yep! Goad's car is God's car. It's a sanctuary. So's my bathroom. I do some of my best gospel singing in the shower. But we have our own vocabulary. Let us not forget.
Dear readers, I've made some points I never intended to when I began this little essay. But when one is writing under "inspiration" one never knows what all will flow from the pen. Let me try to tie all of this together. Words are important. The Word is vital! Let's be more thoughtful in our expressions; more biblical. What can possibly be wrong with that? Some of us are too hung up on words. We won't convert someone by jumping down his throat because he said "Reverend" to our "preacher" as he left the building. Let some things slide. He'll learn better later. He may even, if he listens closely, add some new unscriptural terms to his vocabulary. That is, unless we learn better.