Swearing in Church #@!$%*&!

Erik Cooper —  February 24, 2011 — 7 Comments

There’s an emerging curse word in church circles today (at least my circles). A four letter word that actually has seven. It’s dirty. Nasty. Brace yourselves and stick a finger in the kids’ ears.

Pr@g&#m!

(I’m expecting my FCC fine in the mail at any moment).

A pastor announcing a new pr@g&#m at his church today is like a politician bragging about increasing your taxes. You just don’t do it. Your posts will get flagged by internet filters. It could even trigger a Dateline exposé.

Pr@g&#ms are for institutions.

Pr@g&#ms are for mass, assembly line production.

Pr@g&#ms are for religious people.

Pr@g&#ms produce 2% shifts and checklist living, not long-term Kingdom transformation.

Right?

I had a fascinating conversation with one of our City Community Church overseers last week. In the midst of our passionate dialog, he mentioned the dreaded “P-word.” After chastising his potty mouth, I asked him a serious question:

When does a valid ministry endeavor become an institutionalized pr@g&#m? When does it cross that line? What is the core difference between a pr@g&#m response and an honest, effective investment in someone’s life?

I thought his answer was intriguing. Worth posting to stir some conversation:

“Pr@g&#ms create spectators and consumers. Transformation demands participation and sacrifice.”

What do you think of that definition? Is he right? Love to hear your thoughts (after I finish sucking on this bar of soap).

7 responses to Swearing in Church #@!$%*&!

  1. I don’t get….I understand you like the short, quick-hitting blog posts, but you’ve got to have a little substance. You need to explain WHY program is a bad word. Give examples, stories, explanations.

  2. He does.

    Read it again. This time, word-for-word and slowly…you’ll catch it.

    “When does a valid ministry endeavor become an institutionalized pr@g&#m? When does it cross that line? What is the core difference between a pr@g&#m response and an honest, effective investment in someone’s life?

    Pr@g&#ms create spectators and consumers. Transformation demands participation and sacrifice.”

    Here’s what I gathered by what I read:
    A church “pr@g&#m” is a by-the-book, step-by-step guided event with pre-canned responses to every possible outcome.

    When you seek true transformation in people’s lives, that demands active participation, genuine love, and sacrifice.

    That is unless I read something totally different than you did…

  3. I agree it is a word to be avoided, but not so sure it is a source problem. If an individual loses his heart and goes through the paces, it’s like they’re just on cruise control. This can happen anywhere with anyone. I wonder if Bono ever steps off the stage at the end of a night with a deep sense of dissatisfaction that he just ‘did what he was supposed to do.’ If organization is the problem then it would indicate that only spontaneity can be genuine, but anyone who has attempted to ‘plan’ a special day, date or event knows most of the time you’d better do due diligence to help it be special. Foresight is a good thing in many instances, but so does spontaneity have its place. Our church meets each Sunday at 10:30, we call it a gathering, and we all know it’s coming… so we talk about it and plan for it and even create an ‘order’ so we have an idea what is coming next when we get there. You might call that programming a church service. Some folks call it an experience, but that doesn’t make it a good one. I think this is a heart issue and we can get lost in the semantics of old world language that we replace with words that pacify our senses and make us feel better that we didn’t say that bad word, you know…. what you said.

    • Love this dialog guys. Admittedly, I’m being a little intentionally over the top to stir some discussion about an important issue. But this is a challenge I deal with every day. Appreciate the encouragement and counterpoint here from some wise voices.

  4. Methinks thou hast discarded the baby with the bathwater.

  5. I think it’s a question that every pastor should ask themselves because programs are easier to control and “produce” than the alternative.

    It’s easier to produce a participant than a disciple. And one doesn’t necessarily equal the other.

    It’s easier to create programs than participatory experiences that lend themselves to transformation.

    In Corinthians 14:26, Paul says, “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”

    Do we trust that the Spirit can lead our gatherings and groups regardless of our plan? Is there room for the Spirit to even move if He wanted? Do I trust that the same Spirit that indwells the Senior Pastor indwells the guy on the 3rd row second from the end to have an equally legitimate revelation?
    That’s participation and sacrifice to move out of the way and allow some of that to go on!

    When you stop asking those questions (I believe) and rely solely on programs, you are in danger of creating spectators and missing out on those transformational experiences.

  6. “Pr@g&#ms create spectators and consumers. Transformation demands participation and sacrifice.”

    That is a good observation. I would also add Pr@g&#ms create “facilitators.” Facilitators and consumers are transformed as they participate and sacrifice.

    A good example of this would be the Discipleship Walk. Both facilitator and consumer are changed when they sacrifice to server and/or be with God. Then enter in…. participate.

    I have also found that the Pr@g&#m provides a table for those that hunger and thirst for the things of God. Institutionalized Pr@g&#ms lose their viability when they serve themselves at that table.

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