When I began graduate school, I had this infatuation with these big words. I felt like I needed to be able to confidently throw around the differences between dispensationalism and progressive dispensationalism versus covenant theology. The list of words and ideas are endless. I remember getting excited when the syllabus indicated it would be one of those weeks. I felt like they were notches on my theological belt. I would be closer to my desired arrival point when I could pontificate with the best and splatter all the big words (appropriately) into the conversation.
The interesting thing is that now after two graduate degrees I find those words are usually worthless in ministry. Occasionally, while spending some time with another seminary geek, I might mention these ideas but that is about it.
Imagine this scene with me… There are two people seated facing each other. On the wall in front of each of them they will see an image flash for 5 seconds and then together they will have to draw it on one sheet of paper with their non-dominant hand. So, the couple needs to engage in some good communication and work together as a team so that the final sheet will look exactly like the image which was flashed before them. Easy, right? Maybe so….
What if their assumption which was that the same image was flashed to both of them was wrong? What if it was two different images which were each made up of the same elements? In other words they both included the sun, sky, trees, and a bird yet they were radically different images…
This is almost always how a conversation feels when it revolves around these big ‘impressive’ theological words. There are two (or more) people trying to communicate together about an idea which they both clearly see entirely differently.
I’m often asked if we are a **this** (take your pick of big theological words and fill in the blank) church or a **that** church and my answer is always the same. I ask what they mean by those words and then I interact with their description. At that point, regardless of whether a person has a full understanding of the idea, I have heard the questions behind the question. Then we are able to talk about the bible.
The words of scripture and the truths of the Bible are really pretty simple. The words that Jesus used to teach his listeners were pretty simple. Even Paul used pretty simple words when he wrote his letters.
Growth and maturity in a relationship with Jesus Christ is not measured by our big and complicated words. It is really quite the opposite. To know something or someone deeply is really the ability to speak about them clearly and simply.
Challenge: To many of you this may not find any application. But to a few, I would encourage you to spend far greater time and effort deepening your relationship with Jesus and reading His word than giving a second thought to any of those multisyllabic words of the ivory tower.
Matt Powell serves as teaching pastor at Crossings Community Church, a body of believers whose mission is to engage, equip, and empower homes for gospel transformation in Katy, TX.