What You Need to Know About Christianese

I first heard the term ‘Christianese’ in college. My Christian college. Since then, my eyes have been opened to this whole other language that’s exclusive to us believers. That may sound obvious, I mean, doesn’t every group have their own go-to phrases?

But Christianese has more negativity attached to it and that’s the complete opposite of what we want. Can it be avoided? What do we do about it? Do we need to do anything about it? These are the questions I want answered!

***Disclaimer: I realize I may even have some Christianese sprinkled in this blog. That’s my point.

I’m not going to call out these phrases specifically, but if you’d like some examples of Christianese, just take a listen to the people in your Bible study, your church, and unfortunately, Christian comedians. Take note of the statements you hear repeated almost verbatim by different people. These are the phrases that get satirized by the world and even our own people. And that can’t be a good thing. Who will respect the God we worship if we don’t even respect Him?

As Christians, we want to appeal to those who don’t know for themselves the life-giving power and love of Jesus. We want to encourage and edify others, not sound like worn out bells. We can’t let our comfort in the words and phrases we’ve heard or grown up with inhibit others from taking the gospel seriously.

We’re in a tough place. As soon as we mention Jesus or God or the Bible, we’ve entered into churchy language. That can’t be helped, and those who take offense are those who probably don’t want to hear about it anyway. I feel like that’s the type of Christianese that can’t be avoided. I want to talk about Jesus! I don’t want to preach, but I want to share what Jesus is doing in my heart, and I think there’s a difference.

Now, the other extreme would be to quit talking about God or biblical things altogether to avoid sounding Christiany. That would be compromising your beliefs and your testimony based on cultural opinion. I don’t want to scare you out of saying certain things. Don’t be ashamed! Just be aware.

So, though the lingo is part of the territory, I think we need to be conscious of how we’re delivering it. Are we just reciting the church script or are we speaking from the heart?

The words of the mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.

Proverbs 18:4 (NIV)

Let’s take the time to examine our words. Do we actually know what these familiar concepts mean to us? Process the verses, digest the truths, and meditate on how they affect your life. Maybe when you’re faced with an opportunity to share with someone or pray for another, you can do so confidently knowing what you’re talking about.

It’s not about saying something correctly. It’s not about memorizing the jargon to feel like you belong in the group. It’s about understanding what’s going on in your heart and being able to articulate it to others in the most authentic way possible.

Now, don’t clobber me if you feel like I’m attacking people who use these phrases. I do it too! But ever since I noticed it, I became frustrated by it, and I set out to use that awareness to better understand my beliefs and express them in a way that maybe can help people relate more. I hope this information will also enhance your ministry as well.

What are your thoughts? Am I making too big a deal of this? Or is Christianese too sacred to tweak? Let me know in the comments!

-LJM

Isaiah 12:4

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