the weblog of Alan Knox

Labels, names, and pretending to be what we’re not

Posted by on Mar 20, 2013 in blog links, discipleship | 2 comments

Labels, names, and pretending to be what we’re not

Several years ago, an airport near my hometown spent millions of dollars on a study to determine how the airport could be changed from a regional airport to an international airport. After all the money was spent and the study was complete, the airport enacted the conclusions delivered in the report: The airport changed its name, adding the word “International.”

Yep. Nothing changed but the name.

I’ve seen that happen too many times among the church. Do we think evangelism is important? Well, let’s add that to our “mission statement”. Do we want to be friendly? Let’s put that on our sign or bulletin. Do we want to make disciples? Let’s change our “Bible study classes” to “Discipleship classes.”

And, too often, just like with the airport near my hometown, nothing changes but the name.

Miguel at “God Directed Deviations” touched on this issue recently in a post called “Has ‘Missional’ Become a Self Congratulatory Word?

He writes:

In my desire to be “missional” I’ve always had to guard against wanting to be part of what is gaining approval by the mainstream. Those missional folk, after all, tend to be very hip and trendy. Being missional can become a destination disease where we pat ourselves on the proverbial back when we’ve arrived. So, as difficult as it may be, I think it might be time to check our motives in missional mania and decide if we’re just on a trajectory of self-congratulation.

He also mentions something similar regarding the word “organic”:

I think this would apply to my “organic” friends too. Striving to be organic (total participatory, non-hierchacal, smaller, mobile, relational, non-institutional, and often more spontaneous,) can serve to board up our missio-boxes rather than being a spring-board for mission. It’s tragic when open ended Kingdom processes become closed self approving systems.

You know, we’ve learned that it doesn’t really matter what we call ourselves or what other people call us. What matters is how we live with God, with one another, and with the world around us. If we are “missional,” we won’t need to use the label in order for people to know it. If we’re “organic,” we don’t have to advertise it for people to recognize it.

On the other hand, while I don’t think the labels and names are necessary, there’s no reason NOT to use descriptive words like “missional” and “organic” if they actually describe the way you are living together as brothers and sisters in Christ.

I think the same could be said of many other terms, labels, and names that people throw around.

Let’s not worry so much about what we call ourselves or what others call us.


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

  1. 3-20-2013

    I think if we stuck to the good ol’ King James English, we wouldn’t sound so nerdy…”missional,” my goodness, what kind of word is that? (My version of sarcasm here…)

    I agree. We are sounding too much like the education system, spiralling into self-analysis on a cyclical calendar, coming up with new jargon (yet ever old) with every revolution, only because the tried and true is too worn-out to our ears. If we were truly humble in attitude, we wouldn’t care what others think about us. We would just do.


  2. 3-21-2013


    I like sarcasm. 🙂

    This is great: “If we were truly humble in attitude, we wouldn’t care what others think about us. We would just do.”