In Praise of Nouns
In a little while we are driving to LAX to pick up our good friends from France; Yves, Marylene and Mailys Pizant. Yves is a pastor in St. Jean du Gard, France and his wife's parents are the ones with whom we stay every time we visit. I speak very little French and Yves speaks a bit more English. But we get along really well with nouns (and our wives stepping in when we need deeper translation).
When people ask me if, after visiting France so often, I am now fluent, I respond by saying that I get by with nine nouns and three questions. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. Nouns really do the trick. They identify objects correctly or wrongly. When someone gives me the gift of a noun in French, I feel like I'm that much more able to know the environment.
Several days ago I read an interesting blog (and forgot to bookmark it for here) from Shane Clairborne disavowing the label assigned to him as emergent church leader. It was a well written piece wherein he discards the adjective (emergent) and clings to the noun (church). Adjectives are so much fun. They brighten dull nouns with dazzling colors and descriptors. Adjectives give zest and texture. Sometimes we double and triple up adjectives to pile them on nouns because the nouns alone seem so naked and pitiable.
I think about all the nouns I have enjoyed clinging to for identification regarding my role in the church senior pastor, evangelical church, liturgical church, contemporary church, missional church, as if pastor and church are not sufficient. My love of adjectives, as Clairborne revealed, diverts me from the central noun...the church. It is sufficient.