Abuse of Words (1)

Wright Randolph
Cincinnati, Ohio

I do not approach this study as a grammarian but, as one who views the practical use made of words.

For a good many years the word "mission" and its relatives have been somewhat of a "thorn in the flesh" to me. I doubt that there is any one word that has suffered more abuse in connotation than this one.

As I consult the dictionaries for a definition of the word I am impressed with the fact that it is defined as having to do with the religious realm more than with any other. While the word has its place in the political, business and military, in a limited sense, it demands far more consideration as it applies to the religious. This is true in spite of the fact that the word does not even appear in the most widely used versions of our Bible.

The authorities who define words for our use are influenced to a great extent, and they so state, by the use made of the word in our present day. This being true, we have no difficulty in understanding why its field is that of the religious. The denominational people have made much use of this word for a long period of time. If one should delete this word, with its derivatives, together with "Sunday School" from the vocabulary of sectarian people, there would be little for them to talk about. While, for a long time, they have been the prime abusers of this word, they are going to have to move over a bit and make room for members of the Lord's church. For the past several years our brethren have been on a real "mission" rampage.

Among brethren, the same abuse is seen of this word as it has been, and is yet, used as a substitute for the word "church." Some years ago, for the first time, I noticed the identification of a building located on the Arizona-New Mexico state line which was "Church of Christ Mission." This identification was used to denote a meeting place for members of the church. The addition of the suffix "mission" to the term "church of Christ," denotes something special in connection with this identification; probably, the fact of this "mission" being under the supervision of, and financed by, some church. A very unscriptural situation.

This is the result of brethren thinking of gospel preaching in virgin, or foreign fields, as "mission" work and the result of any success in the venture would be the establishing of a "mission" as opposed to "church." While this practice may be good grammar, we are made to think of the cigarette commercial "What do you want, good grammar or . . . scripturalness?" And our answer to the inquiry is: we are concerned with scripturalness, and good common sense, in the use of words. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20).

In searching our New Testament we do not find any occasion where preachers were sent out to establish a "mission." Nor do we find any instance of any one of these preachers leaving a field of endeavor having established a "mission." In contrast, these preachers were sent out by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel and establish churches, and this they did in Corinth, Thessalonica, Berea and elsewhere, according to the inspired record. Therefore, the displacement of the word "church" and using in its stead the word "mission" is without New Testament precedent; therefore, unscriptural! Brethren, let us quit using the language of ASHDOD!

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 11, pp. 5-6
January 21, 1971