the weblog of Alan Knox

Almost meaningless phrases

Posted by on Jan 17, 2010 in discipleship | 3 comments

I’m beginning to think that there are several phrases we use as churches that have almost become meaningless. They are not meaningless because they are unimportant. The phrases probably began with much meaning. But, I think they’ve become meaningless because they usually remained undefined, or they are defined in such general terms that the definitions are unhelpful.

Unfortunately, these are terms or phrases that we often use to describe our purpose or our way of life or our priorities. I’m thinking of phrases like “We worship God,” or “Let’s do everything for God’s glory,” or “We must follow Jesus,” or “Let’s focus on God’s mission.”

These phrases sound great, and they can probably attract alot of “Amens” if said with enough zeal and at the right moments. But, what do they mean?

You know, I think I would also add one of my favorite phrases to this list: “We should meet to edify one another.”

Every church believes that they worship God, bring glory to God, follow Jesus, are focused on God’s mission, and edify one another. But, people who are part of these churches act in drastically different ways… sometimes contradictory ways.

Perhaps I should look into Scriptures… do we find phrases like this in Scripture? I know what I think is the answer, but I want to do some investigation first.

Do you agree that phrases like these are almost meaningless? Do you think they’re helpful? Can you think of other phrases like these?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 1-18-2010

    I’m surprised there were no takers on this one. I was going to suggest “sweet fellowship,” something I’ve never been able to distinguish from a pleasant conversation, but it didn’t seem to carry enough weight.

    Perhaps these phrases tend towards emptiness because they describe qualities of actions that we never discuss. For example, in my own church I hear a lot of talk about “godly sorrow” over sins, but since there is never talk about actual sins it is difficult to understand what godly sorrow would look like in practice. Similarly with “edify one another”; I can’t even imagine how the proceedings would ever get to the point where it would be possible to ask the question “How exactly do we edify one another by you talking while we smile and nod?”

    Not exactly related but close, last night I listened to a thirty minute sermon (after a verse of the hymn “Come and Dine”) telling us that we aren’t being fed because we don’t come to the meeting hungry, being instead filled with the things of the world. Well, OK. But it occurs to me that if I had managed to come to church not filled with the things of the world, but genuinely hungry for the things of the Lord … I would have ended up dining on a scolding about how I wasn’t being fed because I wasn’t coming to the meeting hungry.

    I think we have become scandalously imprecise about our language because it allows us to avoid uncomfortable discussions, not only about the real difficulties of living the Christian life, but about the glaring distance between how the Bible talks about things like gathering and how we end up practicing those things.

  2. 1-18-2010

    Rick that is very well put. I often misuse those statements so my silence was one of humble self-observation. Thank you Alan for posting this.

  3. 1-18-2010

    A couple come to mind: “I’ll pray for you” (or even, “Please pray for me”) and “We’re trusting God completely in this situation.” In my experience (both saying and hearing these), these are not only meaningless, but often directly opposed to the actual truth being lived out.


  1. The Assembling of the Church | What is edification? - [...] I included the phrase “We should meet to edify one another” in my list of “Almost Meaningless Phrases.” Why? …