What’s in a Name?

Michael DuduitChurch, Michael Duduit

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What’s in a name? Apparently, quite a lot.

In an article by John Leo, he noted the current propensity for euphemisms: finding preferred terminology for traditional words and descriptions. For example, opponents of the inheritance tax have really picked up political steam since they started calling it a “death tax.” Imagine how many more G.I. Joes are sold with the name “action figures” than if they were labeled “dolls for boys.”

The business world is full of such terminology. Tell someone they were involved in an “involuntary normal attrition,” “managing down,” or “rightsizing” and they might not even realize at first they had just been laid off.

This trend is quite popular in the labeling of professions, Leo points out. He observes that many accountants argue that they should switch to the term “cognitors.” (OK, so they are not among the smartest accountants in the barrel.) Other examples: salesmen are now “relationship managers.” Another term for bill-collectors: “persistency specialist.” (I suppose I’d be less inclined to hang up on a persistency specialist.)

Perhaps it’s time for us in the church to catch up with the rest of society. Just think of the opportunities:
  • Instead of an “offering” next Sunday, you can give your members the chance to participate in a “faith-based investment opportunity.”
  • You need no longer have “ushers” when you can now utilize “parishioner logistics specialists.” (And I’m pretty sure “parishioner logistics specialists” are less likely to stand on the front steps and smoke during the sermon.)
  • Having trouble attracting nursery workers? Just announce that you are now in search of “early childhood management personnel” and see the difference!
  • You need no longer have “announcements” at the beginning of your service when you can instead offer “self-contained content modules.”
  • Why have a “choir” when you can instead have a “praise team”? (Oops, I think that one may have already been taken.)
  • Instead of a plain-old sermon, the highlight of your service can now be an “inspirational and informational communications unit.” (A side benefit: if they can’t pronounce it, how can they complain about how long it runs?)

And as for our own roles, just identify me as a “faith-based communications specialist.” Or preacher is still OK with me.

Michael Duduit is founding Dean of the College of Christian Studies and the Clamp Divinity School at Anderson University. He also serves as Professor of Christian Ministry. He is the founder and still serves as Executive Editor of Preaching magazine, one of the nation’s premier publications for pastors. His email newsletter, Preaching Now, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences. He is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching, Joy in Ministry: Messages from Second Corinthians, Preaching with Power: Dynamic Insights from Twenty Top Communicators and Communicate With Power.