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Why I Hate Bike Stores

August 2, 2008

There’s a place in Richmond (where I grew up) that I hated to visit. It was a store for triathletes and it was incredibly intimidating because I would go in there looking for a pair of running shoes or a new bike, and instantly I would be overwhelmed by their use of jargon and other bike-related lingo. Have you ever felt like a moron as somebody who knows a lot more about a hobby like biking speaks to you in a way that you don’t know half the words they used?

The same thing happens when I go to get a car fixed at a garage. “It looks like your master cylinder has gone out, and we’re going to need to replace that…” Of course, they never tell you what a master cylinder is, what it does, or anything.

Is that what it’s like coming into a church for people who aren’t regular church-goers? We develop a lingo, some Bible-words, that we throw out and leave non-Christian visitors feeling helpless and ignorant?

Now stay with me here, because you may be thinking I’m going in a different direction than I actually am. I’m not about to propose that we water-down sermons to the lowest common-denominator. If that’s the case, why don’t we just tell a few cute stories, use some video-clips, make everybody feel good, talk no more than 15 minutes, and call it a day? (Oh wait, that’s already going on…)

Well recently I had a pleasant experience when I got Megan’s car fixed. She had some issues with her brakes, and when I took it in to get it fixed they told me she needed her master cylinder replaced (I have no idea what a master cylinder is. That may make me less of a man, but I just didn’t grow up around cars). But here’s the cool thing – they invited me to come back into the garage to show me what the problem was! And they said things like, “ok, you need a new master cylinder – now let me tell you what that means. A master cylinder does this…” Now I know what a master cylinder is. They didn’t make me feel like an idiot, just saying “now this thing in your car broke that needs to be made better so that your things that stop the car start working again.”

Hopefully the symbolism is obvious. We don’t baby everyone at church when we preach, replacing every “Bible-word” with some simpler term that doesn’t carry the same meaning. We also don’t throw out words like propitiation, sanctification, and justification, as though everyone and their mother knows what they mean. Instead, we use the words that the Bible uses but are willing to unpack their meaning so people are educated! The more I study what the church should look like, the more I realize that it should be a place where learning and teaching is at the center of the church’s mission. As one of my professors here has said, “if people can learn about calculus, biology, and literature then they can also be taught theology in the church.” Amen.

Just my two cents, and why I won’t return to that bike store in Richmond again.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Matthew permalink
    August 4, 2008 1:06 pm

    i like it.

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