(Brooke’s generosity Blog)
February 11, 2018

I have always liked numbers. I was good at math in school. I like figuring out how things work. Theoretically, that is. I have no need to take something apart, and then put it together again. If I tried, I am pretty sure that I could get it into pieces. Now, putting it back together is another thing. My younger brother Peter could fix anything so that it could work better. I was his advisor on the theoretical aspects of what he did with his hands.

In the church we deal with a lot of intangibles. Of course, the ultimate, insubstantial, intangible, immaterial, incorporeal presence, is God. We can perceive God in all things, but how do we measure it?

My colleagues in ministry, those ordained in particular, (although this disease can infect anyone), have developed a jargon to describe ministry.

Nadia Bolz Weber says: ‘Meaningless Church Jargon drives me crazy!!” For example she suggests that:

  • “Christian” is not an adjective,
  • “Disciple” is not a verb,
  • “fellowship” is not a verb,
  • “Gospel” is not an adjective.

Nadia’s all-time favourite dislike is a term that also leaves me breathless with its utter meaninglessness. “Missional Imagination.” Some people use this term as an excuse to ignore any inconvenient real facts, such as worship attendance, membership data, decline in funds and really anything they do not wish to talk about.

I am left gasping with astonishment.

I have heard real people with PhDs and Master’s degrees proposing, from their “missional imagination” that they deserve hundreds of thousands of dollars to support a project. They offer no data. No numbers. No plan. But, trust them and give them money. Why? Because they have used meaningless church jargon to argue that Jesus wants this. Unsurprisingly, this seldom works.

Even hard-nosed Presbyterians are subject to this disease. Some pretend that it does not matter that we have lost 26% of our membership and households in the Presbyterian congregations in this Presbytery of Waterloo Region and Wellington County including Guelph in the last 7 years.

A research paper produced for our Presbytery notes a 50% loss of church members since 1990 and a projected 43% loss of the remaining members by 2030 (just 11 years 11 months away!)

I love numbers, but I sometimes do not like what they say. I believe that it is time for the church to start speaking in plain language and leave behind “holy jargon.” Poor adaptations of corporate concepts and applying these concepts to God, is just offensive.

There is also comfort in numbers. Some congregations are growing and adapting to new realities. We are one of this community of growing congregations. We try and not use church jargon. We just do it. With numbers. With prayer. With plain speaking and good people wanting to serve our Lord. It is a bit embarrassing to say this. But I will say it. Our numbers are good, very good. Worship attendance, children’s ministry, dollars donated, active people (members, adherents, and friends of the congregation are all on the plus side of the ledger. No Jargon. No excuses. With honest faithful wise investment. And God’s Grace. Amen.