I’ve been trying to adjust my mind (and perhaps my tongue and pen) to some current linguistic modes, especially the penchant for using certain adjectives ending in “al.” I’m pondering three “als” in particular: missional, incarnational, and intentional. This trio joins others in church lingo, some time-dated, such as communal, others with greater continuity, such as spiritual.
Now I don’t object to using adjectives,… although strong verbs often communicate better than weak ones propped up by adjectives. Rightly used, adjectives describe, modify, or qualify nouns and pronouns, providing hortatory power to truth propositions. (Hmm, ought we become more “propositional”?)
I understand an exhortation to be missional as modifying a personal pronoun, in this case “me;” ergo, I should be mission-minded, I should “go and make disciples!” Okay, I’m listening. Sounds a bit quirky, but apt synonyms often quicken jaded consciences.
To be incarnational I take to mean following Jesus in the real world. It brings to mind lyrics such as “I have decided to follow Jesus” and “Must Jesus bear the Cross Alone?” Okay, as long as the primary referendum is to “the Word made flesh”—to Deo not to ego.
Urging me to be intentional, however, leaves me confused. I do have intentions, mostly good ones, about exercising, writing, praying, etc. Does this adjective modify a personal pronoun (me) or something else? Monastic vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience leap to mind from church history, but I don’t think that’s what is intended. Consecrated? Disciplined in prayer life and stewardship? Sorry preachers, this adjective doesn’t do much for me. Context it or junk it!
Here’s the larger question: does this new terminology help folks become more knowledgeable and faithful Christians or just provide fresh jargon for church leaders seeking cultural relevance? I conclude these reflections with this verse:
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1: 22 TNIV)
Oh, one could paraphrase this scripture thus: “Don’t be merely audile, become effectual,”
although I prefer the verbal force of the translated text– “Do what it says!” How about you?
Peace and joy!
Arthur O. Roberts