Words Matter

3 comments Written on April 26th, 2016     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
LizRev. Elizabeth (Liz) Jensen is an ordained Covenant Pastor serving as the solo pastor of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Venice Isle in Venice, FL. She serves as the treasurer of Advocates for Covenant Clergy Women (ACCW). She recently completed 6 years serving on the Committee on Ministerial Standing (COMS) of the Southeast Conference (SEC) Ministerium; she chaired the committee the last three years. At their 2016 annual meeting she was elected President of the SEC Ministerium. She also serves as treasurer and chaplain for the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Venice Area Chapter; her husband is a retired Lieutenant Colonel from the Minnesota Army National Guard.

Have you heard the song “Words”? The lyrics roughly declare that words can make people feel like prisoners or can set them free. Words can make people feel like criminals or kings. Words can lift hearts to new places and drag hearts back into a pit. Words can build up and break down. Words can start a fire in a heart or put it out.

How do our words impact those who hear them? For those in ministry, how do the words of your preaching, teaching, singing and writing impact those who hear or sing or read them? We would never use derogatory language in reference to any group, yet I hear and read and sing words that ignore, diminish, overlook, and disregard half the population. Can you see it in these Scripture quotations?

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked” (Psalm 1:1).

Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels,” (1 Corinthians 13:1).

The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

If you do not see a problem with these words, read on. You see, words matter! Can you see (or hear) it in these lyrics from “Be Thou My Vision”?  Verse 2:

“Thou my great Father, I Thy true son; Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.” Verse 3: Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,”

Can you see (or hear) it in these lyrics from “Joy to the World”?

“Joy to the world! the Savior reigns. Let men their songs employ.”

Can you hear it in these sermon declarations?

“Man has fallen. Jesus came to redeem man.”

Can you hear it in these illustrations?

“The pastor…he. The Sunday school teacher…she. The fireman…he. The policeman…he. The secretary…she.”

These are but a few examples of what I have seen and heard – some rather recently. What message do these words send? As a woman, when scripture quotes ignore me, when sermons disregard me, when illustrations diminish me, and when songs overlook me I am lost to their message. I should not have to “suck it up” to hear God’s word and sing praises to Jesus. It is time to tune up our awareness of how the words we use in preaching, teaching, singing and writing impact half the people to whom we speak and to whom and with whom we minister. Words matter. Let’s not just tune up our awareness, let’s change our words so all are included.

Blessed are those who do not walk in the counsel of the wicked” (Psalm 1:1).

Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of people” (Matthew 4:19).

If I speak in the tongues of humans or of angels” (1 Corinthians 13:1).

The prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

“Be Thou My Vision” in the Covenant Hymnal a Book of Worship uses totally inclusive language. Here it is in case you don’t have the book:

Verse 2:

“Thou my great Father, thy child shall I be; Thou in me dwelling, and I one with thee.

“Riches I heed not, nor vain, empty praise.”

“Joy to the World” is easily changed to “Let us, our songs employ.”

We can change our sermons to declare: “All humanity has fallen. Jesus came to redeem us all.”

We can change our language to remove gender specific pronouns. Or we can regularly refer to “The pastor…she. The Sunday school teacher…he. The firefighter. The police officer. And even the secretary…he.” Be bold. Be brave. My brothers and sisters in Christ, do as did Jesus. He reached out to women in ways that were counter to his culture. It suggests to me that Jesus would not want females ignored in our preaching, teaching, singing and writing today. Words matter!

Let me ask a few questions using the song “Words”. Do your words make women feel like prisoners or help set them free? Do your words make women feel like criminals or help them feel like royalty? Do your words lift women’s hearts to new places or drag them into a pit? Do your words build up women or break them down? Do your words start a fire in women’s hearts or put fires out? Words matter!


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3 comments “Words Matter”

YES!  Thank you!  I will post this on my wall…I’ve been saying/asking, sometimes shouting this for years…I can’t understand why some women respond to me by saying “It does’t bother to me at all, why does it bug you?”  Or even, “Oh Lisa…why die on this hill?”  I have even “been removed” (“you are fully trained now….let’s have others take your place”) from leadership in a christian para-organization (NOT a Covenant one!) for my stance on equality of gender.  When the question of persecution comes up and I respond about gender inequality (in non Covenant circles), people treat me as if I have no idea what REAL persecution is…Frustration continues.  But I am SO PROUD of our denomination and the work of the Commission of Biblical Gender Equality!  I value my 6 years serving on that commission more than I can say.

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So glad you wrote on this! Words do matter so much. How do we refer to human beings? How do we refer to God? Do we only use male pronouns? Whether intentional or not, it makes it very difficult for women to fully embrace that they have been created in the image of a God who formed both male and female in God’s image. Thank you.

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It is time for us to expand our limited language to communicate that of the Godhead, only Jesus is the definitive ‘he’. Thanks so much Liz!

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