Monday, June 1, 2009

"Is Your Church a Noun?"

The seventh organizational tool that can be used in a mechanical or organic order way is language.

This is a continuing series by Michael Fleming, working from the book "Organic Community" by Joseph R. Myers.

Previous posts in this series are:
1) Is Your Church an Object?
2) Is Your Church a Clone?
3) Is Your Church a Body?
4) Is Your Church a Scoreboard?
5) Is Your Church a Factory?
6) Is Your Church a Hierarchy?
7) Is Your Church a Collaboration?
8) Is Your Church Old Covenant?

The words that we use reflect what is in our hearts, expresses social structures, shapes worldviews and shapes the way we behave and believe. Language matters. Words matter. They are symbols for ideas that we are trying to communicate. When I say the word “tree,” what you and I think of for that word will be different unless you and I are looking at the same tree at the same time and from the same perspective. But, typically our ideas are similar enough to have the same understanding of what the word means.

Another factor to remember is that language is living. Words and their meanings evolve. A word can be a noun and get turned into a verb and vice versa. “Bad” actually can mean “Good.” “Shut up!” and “That’s ridiculous!” are actually used as compliments. And “Blackberry” is not just a fruit anymore. Plus, we make up words like “internet” and “download.”

What is beginning to change is that we are moving from a noun-centric language to a verb-centric language. Words like “church,” “community” and “gospel” are becoming more verb-like because we are looking more to describe the process, the experience, and the “being.” These words are becoming more dynamic and less static.

Let’s take the word “fire,” for example. Fire is not an object. It isn’t a person, place, or thing. Fire is an ongoing process. It has no substance. However, when we talk about fire we must objectify it and make it a noun so that we can structure a sentence around it. Much the same could be said of words such as church, congregation, worship and God.

When we take words that should be verbs and turn them into nouns, we show our need to objectify, limit and even control the ideas set forth by them. God is easier to get our minds, concepts, and theology around if the Godhead remains only noun. But God describes Himself with the verb “I am.” The Trinity is not three objects. The Trinity is a dance of three verbs. Three “I ams.”

Verbs describe an ongoing process. Human beings, for example, become. We are constantly in motion; constantly changing; we are not still and unmoving.

Do you view words like “church”, “community”, “gospel” and “God” as nouns or verbs? Your answer to this question will affect your language, your processes, your structures, and your outcomes. For example, if you view the word “church” as a noun, it will allow you to treat it as an object that we can control at some level. This view gives us permission to think that if we could come up with the one way of structuring a church, then everyone would want to be involved. Everyone and every group then becomes a widget that we can mold, maneuver, organize, direct, and control.

Myers, Joseph R. "Organic Community"

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