Discipleship is a word we use a lot in the church, and yet it is something I am not sure we entirely understand. Peruse a church’s website, and I am certain that the word discipleship or the phrase making disciples or another similar conglomeration of words meaning the same thing will be found among the top mission statement priorities. Words matter. Mission statements matter, or at least they should. However, if we don’t engage with the practical implications of what our words mean, then they are only, and merely, words.
I recently came across a phenomenon known as semantic satiation. It is a term that describes what happens when a word is repeated so often, it eventually loses its meaning. The idea was first described in 1907 by E. Severance and M.F. Washburn in The American Journal of Psychology. Incidentally, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series that same year, winning another championship the next year, only to lose for the next 107 years. In Cubs lore, the phrase “there’s always next year” falls into this category. It is a phrase that has been repeated ad nauseam and has, in effect, lost its meaning.