Hurtful Not Helpful Part 4: Christianese
Updated: Nov 30, 2021
God called me to it.
Hedge of protection.
Check your heart.
Give into your flesh.
These are just some of the words and phrases I've heard in churches and honestly,
Who talks like that?
Sorry if you're offended because you talk like that but not a single one of them makes sense to a non-Christian. If you used one of those in your small group and someone had invited their friend, they would have no clue what you just said.
Language is a fluid thing. Words regularly change, die, or come back to life. But the interesting thing about language is it creates unwitting barriers. We all have an agreed-upon language (English in my case) but then we have sub-sets of language that show where are in relation to others.
In the city I live in, when you come across a situation that gives you grief, you might say "oh my heck" which is weird because the usual phrase is "oh my god." But it's unique to Utah because of the religious culture.
My wife grew up saying "ya'll" so I'm betting you can take a crack at which region she's from in the U.S.
When something is really cool, I might say "that's wicked sweet" which will tell you that I'm from the Northeast. I also have a nasty little accent that will tell you specifically that I'm from New York.
But it isn't just regions or places that language defines. It'll do it with interest groups. Skateboarders have very different terminology than tennis players do. If someone calls something rad, I'd bet you would place them in the skate category more than the tennis category.
Churches are no different. We use phrases like "God called me to ministry" all the time and when you're an insider, you get it. It means God led you to it. Maybe some doors opened or you were gifted in it or whatever. God didn't actually call you. He likely didn't use an auditory voice to tell you "Jim, you should be a pastor."
Christianese is another slang term that means language particular to Christians. While some of it can be helpful because it becomes shorthand for a longer explanation, overall it's harmful. Churches should be reaching new people every week and every single non-christian will be confused and disinterested in the gospel if our language is filled with Christianese.
So, let me make this simple: let your language be plain and simple.