“A rose is a rose is a rose,” according to novelist Gertrude Stein. But in the church, a rose could actually be a cactus. Language drives the culture in ministry and helps define the vision.
Consider this example: What do you call the people in your church who are officially on the church roster? Do you use the word member? For some, the word membership is associated with the perks received when we join a club such as a gym or Costco. This may create a consumer mentality rather than an environment where people are encouraged to serve others.
Edge Church in Cape Town, South Africa, decided to drive the culture with a different approach to membership. They use the word partner. They offer partnership classes for those who want to join them in their mission to make disciples. “Paul speaks of being partners in the gospel,” says senior pastor Pedro Erasmus. “We felt this term best describes everyone working together toward the same mission.”
Foundations Church in Loveland, Colorado, uses the word ambassador to express this same concept. This 4-year-old church is redefining its language to make sure a culture is established that will drive its future. The staff is now wrestling with how they can describe shared ministry, support systems, volunteer position titles, and action plans to align everything with their core values. The key is to make sure what you say communicates what you believe and reflects what you do.
So at your church, a rose may not be a rose. Carefully consider the words you use. They’ll define your church values and set your culture. Watch out for those thorns!