Church Lingo

For a very long time now, I’ve been asking myself what we, as Christians actually believe. We use terms like “light”, “heart” and “salvation” very freely, but do we understand what we’re saying? If I don’t know what people mean by these words, how on earth is a world that doesn’t know Jesus supposed to?This has been bothering me for a while and after watching a video titled  “Christian Klingdom” about the same subject on The Resurgence, I’ve decided to speak up. It’s not that I don’t understand the bible, I would just like to know if people really understand and mean what they’re expressing through “bible language”.

We recently had a girl from Germany at our home group who didn’t come from a Christian household and so many of the terms, that most of us grew up with, were totally new to her. After our evenings together, I would often ask her whether she could follow the conversation. Very often she’d say that, although she enjoyed hearing everyone’s thoughts, she did have a hard time understanding exactly what we were saying. And I completely understood why she would say that.

Let me give an example. Let’s take the idea of being light. To someone who hears that for the first time, it can sound overly spiritual, almost new-agy. What on earth does it mean to be light? We often read aloud that Jesus wants us to be light and we might even express a desire to do just that. But what are we thinking when we say that? Do we even want to be confronted with that type of reality or is it just a nice idea?

I think there is a very real danger of Christians becoming totally detached from the world by just using language we don’t understand. We can sit in church gatherings, Sunday after Sunday, listening to preaching, or even talking about faith in bible studies and totally miss the real implications of what God is trying to say to us at a very personal level. It can become all about the group we belong to and the lingo we share within that group, which to me sounds very much like the Pharisees that Jesus confronted.

Jesus spoke to people in their context. He said, “The kingdom of God is like…” and used images that resonated with his audience at that given moment. To farmers he spoke about seeds, crops and sheep. To fishermen he spoke about fish. To the woman at the well he spoke about water.

We need to think a little bit more before we speak and actually make an effort to speak a language that church and non-church goers can understand. I know that many church communities have started doing this and hopefully it will catch on quickly. If we care enough to be aware, I think we’ll find images all around us that portray God’s love and character very well and, who knows, people might actually want to listen.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Birgit Peeters says:

    In our church we call this kind of bible language ‘ christianese’.

  2. Chuck says:

    It is always encouraging to see believers question tradition, and wanting to see what God’s Word actually says! This does have to be done without compromising the truth of course. I have started a blog of my own to address the very subject of traditions vs Biblical teaching called Casual Observance( So many congregations have tried to become “more relevant” to the world around them only to completely change what the Word says. When it comes to Christianese lingo i think it is important to not shy away from words and phrases that are actually used by the Prophets and Apostles in conversation and study with each other. You are right that we must speak the language of the world to see any of the world saved. We must also keep in mind that the meeting of the Church on Sundays and at Bible studies is for the edification and building up believers in their faith. attending services and studies are to be used to equip us to preach the word to our unsaved friends an coworkers. Individual Christians are the instruments used to bring others to Christ. All that to say that I am not too concerned about the vocabulary between believers so long as we know and mean what we are saying. Nobody who is not yet redeemed can ever fully understand what we are saying anyway! If we are faithful to obey, the Spirit will do the work for us. That takes a lot of stress off us to make sure we always say the right thing. =)

    Keep up the writing!

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