This really does trip us up so often.

Anything with the word ’emerging’ in it seems to connote images I do not find helpful and seems to start fights that I really can’t be bothered with.

Perhaps its just been my own learning curve the last few years, but these days I am using ’emerging missional church’ less and less (ok – not at all) and replacing it with ‘missional incarnational community’. From where I stand (today) this seems to be the most accurate descriptor of what I am involved with and what I dream of seeing created around Oz.

Simply put ‘missional’ refers to the sending impulse (from latin ‘missio’) and incarnational refers to the ’embedding deeply’ in a local community or people group – being the gospel ‘enfleshed’. I am happy to use the word ‘church’ as I believe we can redeem it from its bad press, but I choose ‘community’ because it is a broader term and allows for some ‘churches’ that would not be considered churches by some to be given legitimacy. On the flip side it also allows some established churches to ‘play’ too because it removes the need to conform to what is ’emerging’ and focuses on a more theological framing.

Of course this isn’t language I use around the street here in Brighton, but when speaking with others about the nature of our work it helps me to sharpen the focus and move beyond what is trendy.

Some would say this is merely semantics, but when language gives shape to everything we do then it actually becomes vitally important!

What do you think?

Has your own terminology / language shifted?

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5 thoughts on “Terminology

  1. I think my ideas on the terminology of the word ‘church’ is what’s been evolving for me this past `12 months.

    Looking at what you’ve been up to, my own journey with Whitehill Church of Christ in Ipswich and getting more involved in City North Baptis in Brisbane, plus looking at WEC and the Muslim targeted church they’ve planted in Sydney really has stretched my ideas on what ‘church’ really means.

    Relationships seem to play the key role in the church, not the services, music and people already in the church (how i was brought up). The WEC church plant in Sydney especially has shown me how outer focused the church rewally should be, how comfortable it should be for the people around it who are not part of it, even if it’s not exactly what the people already in it are feeling.

    The idea of the church is to introduce people to Jesus, through doing that we can strengthen each other, but the core focus isn’t strengthening each other, it’s a by-product of working together to introduce people to Jesus (did I just say the same thing twice back-to-front???)

    By looking at that it’s really been able to define more clearly the work I’ve been doing at the Drag Track as a motorsports chaplain. That is no longer a ‘outward ministry’, but simply a church I belong to, I and the other chaplains, trying to introduce people to Jesus through being there at meets and simply building relationships with them.

    I’d never considered it church before because we didn’t preach, or even very visible outreach. We were just there – people to come and chat with about every day life… people who the guys knew they could vent to, or come to if there was an incident at the track – which has now developed into them coming to us when they have bigger questions on life… like the death of a mate or parent, marrage and troublesom kids.

    Suddenly that seems a whole lot more like the church (according to my new understanding of the terminology) than what a Sunday Service looks like.

    Wow sorry that’s long, but I started and just wanted to finish my ideas.

  2. I’m like you Hamo in that I’m less and less concerned about language. I find it more from people trying to understand what it is you’re doing and frame it (or box it) for their own understanding.

    I ended up calling Myriad a house church thingy, just for those who needed a definition.

  3. Pingback: Overview of Emergent/Missional in Australia «

  4. I tend to think that terminology is very important in a missional sense. I feel ‘Church’ and ‘Christian’ have come to their used by date. Almost everyone has boxed them (the words) in some form and unfortunately to be missional and use these words, in my experience, has had a negative impact because of the experience others have faced from the ‘Church’ and ‘Christians’.

    To then adopt a different terminology that offers a purpose in why a group of people meet or commune together and follow a belief for living I feel is helping people to understand why it’s important, rather than this is what we do because we always do it.

  5. Terminology is very important, especially when you put it down on paper, for someone to digest when you are not around to explain it.

    We all come in with our own preconceptions and bias.

    I would say our church is incarnational and missional…..but what we do is vastly different from what Hamo and others do, and what we might mean by those terms is different as well. So maybe those terms are good to use, because we can unite on what is important, and celebrate what is different.

    I teach a class on charismatic distinctives, and one thing that I have felt is that pentecostalism has introduced us to a whole heap of terms which are unhelpful. What I mean is that one mans ‘word of knowledge’ is another mans ‘the Lord spoke to me about”. So introducing terms which by their very nature exclude Christians from each other, might be detrimental from the unity of “The Church”.

    Emerging Church has certainly got connotations/impressions of a group of people rejecting what other Christians are trying to do, with all sincerity, in advancing the kingdom.

    I would encourage you to push yourself whether you want to use the word ‘community’. To my mind it is a grossly overused word in church and general society, and not defined enough for what you and your crew are up to.

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