Pastors as Language Teachers

Will Willimon recently blogged some advice for young ministers. In one of the posts, he talked about the language chasm that I mentioned the other day. That was one of his points. The other was this: the task of the pastor is to help recover the meanings of words in the Christian faith. For example, what is grace? What is faith? What is hope? What does it mean to be saved? So many of these words have lost their luster . . . even many Christians give only haphazard responses to these questions, marked intermittently by a lot of um’s and well’s. The pastor must be an educator in this sense, rooting what these words mean in the Judeo-Christian tradition, giving them a new life, one that has meaning. I met a retired pastor the other day. We talked about a variety of different things and somehow we got to talking about the gospel and sharing the gospel. The words that he used to discuss the gospel may seem used and worn out to many people today. But for him, they had life. They were rooted in something far deeper than I could see at the moment. Tears filled his eyes as he shared the gospel. I hope the words that we use in the Christian faith today will hold that kind of meaning in people’s lives. That they won’t just be something we pay lip service to. That they won’t just be something that we nod our heads at because the pastor seems so passionate about it. Rather, I hope that we will begin to dust off the wonderful and beautiful language of the Christian faith and communicate it in a way that it reverberates in the minds of the parishioners.

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