Getting Back to Basics


Misused Christian phrases

There is nothing particularly biblical or of note spiritually in this post. So if that is what you’re looking for, I have another one on the way either today, tomorrow or in the next few days. This is a post about how we, as Christians, use words.

I guess I could talk about Christian lingo that so many of use and need to recognize when we are talking to non-Christians. Words with -ology in them may not be well understood even by most Christians (such as: soteriology, Christology, eschatology and others). But even the word saved means something different to a Christian and a non-Christian. But, I’m not going to address those today.

I have in mind two phrases we use that misrepresent what we are talking about.

  1. Bible study:

What are you studying, primarily, at a Bible study? The logical answer is ‘The Bible’, but that’s not always the case. I think there is a distinction to be made between a Bible study and a topical study that includes Bible references. It may seem like semantics, but I think they’re different.

A Bible study is an exposition of a biblical passage or book. It is looking at scripture directly to see the truth in that passage from scripture.

A topical study that uses the Bible as a reference (likely the chief reference, but still just a reference) is one in which a topic is discussed. Bible verses are used, but other writing is also referenced. It is not an exposition of a Bible passage, it is an examination of a topic as it relates to Christians, God’s word, Christ, etc.

  1. Mission Trip.

When you go on a missions trip, what do you do? Is it a trip to the inner city during which you help feed the homeless, help dig a well to provide clean water for a group of people, or work as a medical assistant during an immunization drive to a medically challenged third-world village? All of these are worthwhile activities that Christ calls us to (Matthew 25). However, if these activities supersede the spreading of the gospel, then it’s not missions, it’s an endeavor of mercy.

What is a missions trip at its core? A commission to spread the gospel (Matthew 28: 19, 20). Christ realized that people were in need, but He realized that there physical needs were secondary to their spiritual need. He took care of physical needs many times, but His reason for coming to earth, His purpose, was our spiritual need.

Thus, the term missions trip is misused. Or it could be split into two terms: conversionary missions and humanitarian missions. Here is a video from about the value of conversionary over humanitarian missions and the article by Robert Woodberry referenced in the video. This is a groundbreaking piece of work by sociologist Woodberry that has set the academic world on its collective ear.

So, true, this is a little nitpicky, but I believe we should use words and phrases the way they are meant to be used. Bible study is essential in our lives and we should never think that topical studies, no matter how much they inform or help, can replace expository Bible study. The same is true of missions. Humanitarian missions are needed, but conversionary missions are much, much more important.



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