Language is a beautiful thing. With words we can communicate with others and build relationships. Words can bring us together – and in our current political climate we also see how words can create a great divide between individuals.
Words and language are one of the mysterious things that God has given us. They are mysterious because they have a way of bringing external form to our internal thoughts and feelings. That is why I love paying close attention to the words people use when they describe my church.
There are phrases I am used to hearing when I talk with new people around our church. Whether they are giving a compliment or a critical thought they will use terms like: “You,” “You guys,” “them” and so on. These words make sense – these are people who are new around our church and they see a dividing line between the people who are considered “the church” and themselves. In some ways our role as Christ followers is to lead people to the place where the “you guys” becomes the “we.”
Let me focus this in to an application point for all of us – what language do you use when you refer to the church where you volunteer? When I talk with volunteers at 12Stone Church I listen to hear whether they refer to 12Stone as you or as we. If a person is a volunteer at our church, they carry the name and banner of the church to every person they interact with. There is a breakdown in understanding when a person is a representative of the church but does not identify himself as a part of the church.
In the sports arena this makes sense to everyone. We would all see the breakdown if an athlete wore the teams jersey yet talked in the post-game interview about the team as if he were separate from it.
Words create a window into our inner world. Our words have the ability to draw us closer together or divide us apart. When you refer to your church, no matter what level of involvement you have, remember it is your church. When you talk about the vision, values and activity of the church you are talking about things that we do, things that are true of us.
As a leader when I hear a volunteer refer to our church with terms like, “you guys” I know we are at a critical point in his journey. Whether he knows it or not he is subtly creating space between him and the church.
Today, no matter your level of involvement, find a way to lead yourself and help others connect in the church in ways that cultivate a we mentality over a you mentality.