Thursday, October 25, 2012

7 Dirty Words You Can't Say in Church!

I am sure some of you (besides  Keltic Ken, elder elder and Happy Lee, pastorapostle) remember George Carlin's R-rated "Seven Words You Can't Say on Television" (Google them at your won risk, and don't tell your pastor), In that spirit ( and in memorial tribute the theologian George Carlin),  I humbly submit to you I humbly submit to you :
                   7 Dirty WordsYou Can't Say in Church!


Of course, wise saints will note  at least three problems with that title:

  • -We should be hesitant to use the word "should."  Especially, "Don't should on yourself")
  • -The followimng seven are not technically seven words, but seven phrases (But if we call Jesus' seven last phrases "the secen last words of Christ," let's give it a pass
  • -The last two words of the title break on of the seven rules (but hey, it got you to read the post, right?)

As Carlin did, I will first boldly lay out the "heavy seven." and then commnt on them.

Spoiler alert, and "bad language" alert!  (:

  1. minister
  2. worship leader
  3. worship service
  4. pastor (as a title)
  5. church (as a building, or as "in church" or "going to church"
  6. sermon
  7. children's church

Wow, that  was tough , just typing those!  I feel I should wash my mouth out with a bar of (Christian) soap!!  Sorry for the pro-profanity nature of that list.

Okay, since some may be seeking explanations..

Better yet, an explanation about the explanations:
In no way is what I am about to say a dissing of you,your tradition, or call.  Some of my best friends (and I) often say/do these things.  But language matters.  And these are matters that matter so much to me that I have given up these words (and not just for Lent).  Heck, I have even worn a clerical collar, and here's a pic to  prove it (but you need  to click the backstory here)

To kick off the list, the classic "I Love Lucy"  routine comes to mind:
Etiquette Teacher "There are two words you should never use. One of them is 'swell,' and one of them is 'lousy'.

Lucy: "Well, what are the words?"

Fred: "Tell us the lousy one first!".
I think in many ways the "lousiest" word comes first below; strangely (and unobviously to some),  it may well have done the most  damning damage!

Here now, at least,  are the heavy seven

1)MINISTER:  In many circles and traditions, this is term is used synonymously with "pastor."
But besides that is not a biblical word, what does it denote/connote?  The Bible does use the  related word "ministry," but ONLY when it makes the point that all saints/members are in ministry, and thus ministers..  The task of the pastor et al is to equip the other saints for the "works of ministry."  Ephesians 4:1-11 couldn't be clearer.

2)WORSHIP LEADER: Almost everyone nowadays knows what this phrase means:

 the person leading the music.

Bannnnnk! (game-show buzzer noting wrong answer!)
"Thanks for playing, anyway!"

As recently as twenty eight  years ago, nobody in the world would've have understood the phrase "worship" as meaning music.

But the whole world has changed. Now it is the norm for the word worship to equate to "the songs we sing before the sermon and the other stuff."

And everyone knows a "worship leader" is the music leader.
No one would have defined it that way for the last ..uh, several thousand years.

Que paso?
Whatup with that?
Who switched the price tags?

That is no small shift.

Don't hear what I'm not saying. I love to worship via music. But begin with Romans far bigger and broader.

Language matters.
A strange shift began not that manyyears ago,
Ask most evangelical or charismatic Christians in USAmerica about the place of "worship"in a gathering. For some strange reason, the word has come to be synonymous with "the songs sung early in the meeting."
"Good morning! After the worship, the children will be dismissed, and Pastor Steve will share from God's word"
We even call the person leading the singing the "worship leader."Whazzup with that?
Of course, this definition is foreign to Scripture, and to the church in all history and places..until our lifetime in the West.
Google "worship is not music" for some clues as to how this hijacking happened.

Why do we also thing a "worship" gathering (after the music, or "worship set")is for teaching?:

-Robert Webber, Continued here, ht; Len
In the early church the public worship of the church was a prayer of praise and thanksgiving directed not to the people but to God. Seeing worship as prayer is a paradigm shift from the current presentational notion of worship. Today worship is frequently seen as a presentation made to the people to get them to believe in the first place, to enrich and edify their faith, and to bring healing into their lives. But the ancient church did not design (a contemporary word) worship to reach people, to educate people, or to heal people. Yet in their worship, which was a prayer of praise and thanksgiving offered to God, people were indeed nourished by offering God’s mighty acts of salvation as a prayer to God for the life of the world. The point is, of course, that worship as prayer shapes who we are. But how so?...LINK

Not long ago, our church had some documents to fill out for the IRS  (Why in the world is church connecting with IRS?..  But that's another post and topic for another day).  So I said to one of our leadership team, "can we have you sign a form after worship?"

Later, as we were signing, she said "I wondered wbat happened.  You said we should sign  after worship, so when we didn't sign after worship, I figured you forgot."

I had ansolutely no idea what she meant.

Then it hit me.  In many circles (and in her previous chiurch, the songs that are sung early in the gatherings  are called "worship" or the "worship time" or "worship songs."  So she thought i meant "after the music," and I meant "after the gathering (Of course, my definition was ecen more problematic...(Collect $100 and go to  Dirty Word #3 below )..

3)WORSHIP SERVICE: Once again, the phrase is not found in Scriipture...or is it??
"this is your reasonable SERVICE OF WORSHIP: that in  view of God’s mercy, you should offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God" (Romans 12:1-2, KJV/NIV hybrid)

Hmm, the phrase occurs, but only in a  text and conrext of 24/7 Christian life; wherever you take your body (including the bathroom; see this   and Kraybill's quote: The altar of a church building is no closer to God's heart than the restroom"

THAT is your reasonable 'service of worship.

Sounds reasonable.

So it sounds reasonable that we should restructure our language.
Nothing wrong with meetings (as long as they are "meatings," and prepare us for a lifestyle of worship

4)PASTOR (as a title): The word is good!  But it is never, not once, used in the Book as a title.  Nor are the other "fivefold gifts."  Paul never self-identifies as we identify him: "The Apostle Paul."  He's "Paul, an apostle."  And nearly every time he starts a letter with that identification, he quickly qualifies it with "a slave of Christ Jesus, by the will of God."  See "Apostles as Slaves": by Brian Dodd

What have we done in making central to church a word ("pastor") that is literally NOT MENTIONED ONCE IN THE BIBLE
(click here and count if you doubt)!

Peterson translates Jesus this way.  I wish he had gone all out and included the word "pastor":
5Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. 6They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, 7preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called "Doctor' and "Reverend.'
8"Don't let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. 9Don't set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of "Father'; you have only one Father, and he's in heaven. 10And don't let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them--Christ.
11"Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. 12If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

 Kraybill is downside up and dead right: 

  •  "With one stroke, Jesus erases titles,"  
  • "Titles are foreign to the Body of Christ"

See also: "Jesus is senior ditch the title" and "Don't call me 'pastor,' I worked so hard to lose that title!"

5)CHURCH  (as a building, or as "in church" or "going to church"

I feel like a broken record  (and some see me as breaking heresy records), but read the Bible.
Never does it occur to any biblical writer to use "ekklesia" for a building.

And the one time the term "building" is used in Scripture for church, it's clear the "building is"

"YOU are God's building."


I am breaking nroken records here, but (again) the word is not in the Bible (our popular titles like "Sermon on the Mount" are not in the text.

Jeremy Myers:

"there is not a single passage in Scripture which commands or even provides an example of the current popular pattern of gathering in a building on a certain day of the week to listen to one person stand up and talk about the Bible for thirty or forty minutes.
It is just not there."  -Jeremy Myers, full article, do read it

I sometimes say in meetings, "All American pastors know that  the Bible knows nothing of a weekly meeting where a pastor preaches a sermon."

  But I wonder.  Do you think they (we) all really know the Bible says that, or are we so blinded but what we think it says that we read it into the Bible (eisegete)?"

The point here is that "the sermon" needs a new name to show how open-source the whole event is.  The very word the Bible uses for the word "preaching is dialogizomai...hhhh, do you see any Engllsih words we derive from that Greek word?

Ask the Irish prophets about this

It wasn't that many years ago I traded my sorrows for'...uh, traded my pulpit for a nice "lectern" or podium...even a music stand.

But I finally had to sell even THAT  (the low-key lectern) at a garage sale
(I couldn't chain-saw it)
What's hilarious, and terribly telling is that my neighbor bought it, joking that he could use it to "lecture to my teenage son!"


I love children.

  And sometimes even in our tribemettings, we send the kids out for their own time.

  BUT the whole point is to share with the whole group something they learned when they rejooin us.  And when they stay in the "redular service": (don't make me say "BIG CHURCH!".

  See Gary Goodeel and Graham Cooke for great ideas on how to fully integrate children into the gathering


As Carlin said about his original seven:
"Those are the heavy seven. Those are the ones that will infect your soul, curve your spine and keep the country from winning the war."

Since Cooke and Goodell (in the book above) make much use of their subtitle,"permission is granted to do church differently in the third millenium," I can't imagine a better way to end this rant than to offer you permission...within the parameters of Scripture and leading of the Spirit, to comment on, and come up with your own list of  "seven dirty words."

As Carlin also said about his list:
                       Words are all we have, really.

So be faithful to the Word (Jesus), and the Word that points to Jesus (Scripture),
and pray and play with words.

It might just change as much as everything about the culture of your church.

That's dirty!


  1. Great post! Thorough, humorous, and insightful! Thanks for mentioning my article in it. It is how I found your blog!

  2. Jeremy, thanks!..and pleas keep up the amazing blogwork


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!