Can We Retire This Word?

I’ve only been preaching for three years, so technically I’m a “rookie pastor.” But already I’ve seen some tendencies I’m working to correct. One I find in myself and also see in other Christian communicators is an over- use of the word, “most.”

We arrive at a countercultural truth in our study, perhaps a doctrine nobody seems to want to hear and we easily transition to, “You won’t hear that in most churches.”

Or we say, “In most churches . . . .” or “many Christians . . . .” It’s an easy thing to do. I not only hear this crutch in preachers preaching, but read it in blog posts and in books.

But I wonder if it’s healthy. For one thing, do we know what “most churches” believe? Dictionary.com defines “most” as “in the majority of instances.”

Can a preacher like myself honestly say with any degree of honesty that I actually know what “most churches” believe? There are over 450,000 churches in the United States. To honestly say you know what goes on in “most churches”, you’d have to have visited at least 226,000—that would tip you from half to “most.” I’m guessing even the most widely travelled speakers haven’t frequented that many churches. So we really don’t know, do we?

We employ “most”, I suspect, for two reasons. 1) It’s an easy cheap shot to the “out there” problem we perceive. 2) It makes us “better than most” by default. 3) It’s a lazy way to provide some application.

I’m learning, the hard way, that for me, God isn’t as concerned with “most churches” as he is with my church. And God isn’t as concerned with “most Christians” as he is with this Christian. I’m also learning it’s easier to dwell on the “out there” problem in Christianity than to apply radical gospel surgery to my own heart.

So who is with me? Let’s try to retire the lazy assumption of “most” in our preaching, our writing, and our gospel living. It’s both dishonest and disingenuous.

Daniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He previously served five years as Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church. He is a contributor to Leadership Journal, Homelife, Crosswalk.com, Stand Firm,” and a variety of other evangelical publications. He has written several books, including his latest, Activist Faith.

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3 thoughts on “Can We Retire This Word?

  1. Good thought. I think it can be appropriate when making a larger point toward the Body of Christ, such as, "Most Christians want things to go well for them," but can be dangerous to generalize as well. It is certainly more meaningful to use ourselves and our own church as examples. The real danger in using "most" is that you aren't personalizing the message and that you have not spent sufficient time with God in surveying your own heart and walk.

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