Words that exclude…

I’m just sitting down “to work,” a documentary on advertising (“Art & Copy”) I’ve long had queued on Netflix playing in the background (is it considered background if it is in front of you?), ruminating on some advertising for my local church, and I find myself stumbling over words.

I am increasingly frustrated by words used in “church speak” that, though not intended to, end up excluding others. Those terms that create differentiations between people. Words like “lost” or “found,” “seeker” or “believer,” even “committed” and “inquiring.” No doubt, churches use such language for valuable and worthwhile reasons; to help those working to fulfill the mission of Jesus do just that, follow the calling of Jesus to “make disciples” of all. My problem, at least of late, with such words is that whenever we begin to define groups, we automatically set up barriers that can too easily exclude others.

I don’t want advertising copy that invites “seekers” or the “lost.” I want to encourage and invite real people, ordinary people, people like me: anyone with a longing to connect with God or with others, anyone who wants to be part of a community undergoing a spiritual journey together, anyone looking for deeper meaning in life. When I/we seek to advertise, it is to invite others to be part of a community; not because we’re any better, or even necessarily any further along in our own journey. It’s to invite others to be in community with us, because we experience in community some of that deeper meaning we seek, because when we connect with others it helps us better connect with God…

So I’m bouncing ideas through my mind…

  • Three point campaign connecting my favorite phrase, “Not all who wander are lost” with Christmas. I want to encourage others who are on a journey, but may not be clear about where or their destination, that they can join others on similar journeys; others like me, or perhaps like the shepherds or wise men who were on their own journeys…
  • Emphasis on finding “what makes you sing?” What brings such joy and inspiration to your life that it is as though you’re in an episode of Glee (not that I’ve watched one, yet) or in BTVS’s “Once More With Feeling”? What lifts truth out of you, and brings truth to you, in such a way that your very life sings?
  • Re-think “Open.” The UMC has been declaring itself a people of “open hearts, open minds, open doors,” but the slogan can be misread or misused as a “here we are, we’re open to you, so come to us.” How do we actually live and demonstrate that we are open to Christ’s call to us; open to going to others, regardless of who they are or where they are in their spiritual journey, and sharing life with them?
  • Minimalist. We exist for one reason, to connect you to the One. As a Church of Jesus Christ, we journey together (in the company of the Wesleys and others called “Methodist”) to help and encourage one another to connect with Jesus. Period.
  • Modern Family. We all face many of the same troubles, issues, and difficulties, but gather together as families wanting to grow in love for God and one another…
  • Traditionalist. In the midst of constant change, one thing we seek to offer to individuals and families of all ages and make-ups are the traditions and rituals that have nurtured and nourished people in their spiritual journeys for centuries…

I’m sure there are other nascent ideas pinging around in my subconscious, as well. My emphasis, at the moment, is to be careful. I don’t want to exclude, and I definitely don’t want to suggest I “have it all together” or “have all the answers” (though if my toddler asks, you should say “daddy’s always know best”!). But I do want to share about this wonderful community I’m blessed to be part of, a community of people that nurture and support one another, encourage one another to find their song, encourage and mentor each other in our unique spiritual journeys…

But, faithful reader, what are your thoughts? Not “churches shouldn’t advertise” thoughts; but what do you think we should be expressing to the communities we seek to serve and be in ministry with?

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