2. It’s Not How People Communicate Any More
If you’re my age (mid-50s) or older and you’ve been in church forever, you can automatically transpose “men” into “people” when you hear a sermon.
But anyone under 40 or new to the church thinks “males” when they hear “men,” just like we all do in our everyday lives outside the church.
I'm not suggesting we get ourselves caught up in some PC language pretzel by neutering Bible verses or changing historical quotes like "all men are created equal." But when we're speaking with our own voice, let's use the same recognizable language patterns in church that we use everywhere else.
Theological principles can be challenging and confusing enough without adding an unnecessary barrier of arcane language (such as using arcane words like “arcane”).
3. It’s Confusing
I was in a Bible college class recently when the teacher used “men” in reference to people in general. One of the students assumed "men" meant “male,” so he asked the teacher why the subject was limited to men.
The teacher hadn’t caught that his use of language was confusing the student, so he pushed back. An argument ensued, and it was only when I pointed out the language barrier that they recognized the confusion and discovered that they actually agreed on the subject.
The teacher hadn’t meant anything sexist. The student wasn’t over-sensitive. The language got in the way and confused everyone.
When a misunderstanding happens in a sermon, people won’t raise their hand to ask about it. They’ll go home thinking you said something you never intended.
4. It Reinforces Negative Church Stereotypes
The perception that the church is male-dominated and hierarchical is more widespread than most church leaders realize. That misperception is reinforced by our poor use of gender language.
Again, I’m not debating male headship or gender-neutral pronouns for God. Wherever you stand on those issues, no one believes that God loves and values males more than he loves and values females. But that’s what many unchurched people think we believe.
Let’s not use language that reinforces that negative stereotype.