Welcome to the MiT Diaries! MiT in UK Baptist terminology means ‘Minister in Training’ after this I become a NAM – Newly Accredited Minister, and finally a FAM – Fully Accredited Minister, and hopefully not a DAM which is a structure designed to hold reservoir water in place. Anyway these diaries will hopefully be a place for me to share some of my ministry training and the thoughts that are going through my head. Hopefully that will be vaguely interesting! So without further ado…
As part of my training I have had to study New Testament Greek at an introductory level. I passed, but it was difficult. One of the things I am not naturally gifted at is learning languages. I have a reasonable memory, but for some reason it doesn’t compute other languages very well.
On top of that I have been thrust back into a land of strange and awkward language often called ‘Christianese’. I’m aware that the issue of Christian jargon has been debated for a long time. At the same time, in the UK at least, churches and training colleges are becoming more and more missional in focus. ‘Missional communities’ are replacing small groups and ‘cell groups.’ With this focus on mission you may think that communication was key, that it should be clear and understandable. But it seems that with this focus a new level of words and jargon have been dumped on top of the old. I mean take the term missional community – what is this going to mean to someone outside the church?
Ultimately that is my issue. The language we use should not be a barrier to people coming to Jesus. If people can’t understand us, if they shrug their shoulders and walk off instead of engaging because of our communication then we have simply created another barrier.
All four gospels tell the story of Jesus’ temple tantrum, when upon entering the Gentiles’ court he flips out and flips tables. The big question is why? Why does gentle Jesus meek and mild suddenly go on an Ikea murdering spree? I’d always been told that he was upset at the market traders and that meant we shouldn’t sell things on church property. I remember, even as a child, finding that answer so unsatisfactory. As I have studied and looked at this passage I have realised that what gets Jesus so angry is not the market itself, but the impact it has on the people. The market isn’t set up in the Jewish court, or even the court for women, but in the Gentiles’ court – the only place that the Gentiles could come and worship God. These market stalls were a barrier for the Gentiles to worship God. And Jesus gets rid of them, mere days before he will act to remove all barriers on the cross. Ephesians 2 tells us that Jesus stood in the gap to make Jews and Gentiles one, to break down all barriers and become our peace.
If this sounds unlikely to you look back at one of the passages Jesus quotes. He says that they have made this place a den of robbers, when it was meant to be a house of prayer. The house of prayer comes from Isaiah 56. Just look at these incredible verses:
‘6 And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,
and hold fast my covenant—
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.’
Wow. A house of prayer for all peoples. If our language, if the Christian language and culture we immerse ourselves in is a barrier to those who don’t know Jesus yet, then maybe it’s time to tear down the walls.