Communicating in Christianese

“I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” –1 Corinthians 9: 22

“Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, or the church of God—even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, that they may be saved.” –1 Corinthians 10: 32-33

“Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” –Romans 15: 2

Strange it is that when communicating spiritual truths, it’s easy to run into the dilemma of misunderstanding one another, even when supposedly we are speaking the same language. This is because many different schools of thought about non-essential doctrines can be found within Christian denominational, non-denominational, ethnic, and regional church subcultures. Each separate group tends to have its own jargon.

When we share an important specific Biblically-based truth with a wounded person, we may find him actively or passively rejecting what we have to say. Perhaps for some reason he does not agree or isn’t ready to listen. If so, we just let it go and leave it up to God to make the connection. Or it could be our words will be filed in his mind, to be pulled out and pondered later. Another possibility is that the individual failed to adequately translate our “Christianese” language.

What is Christianese? It is the peculiar phraseology used by church people to convey sometimes-fuzzy concepts that may mean different things to different people. Often these buzzwords and phrases are shorthand for pet doctrines or current Christian fads. Unfortunately, this lingo can cause puzzled looks and a feeling of exclusion from elite secrets when spoken to a person “outside the special group”.

The Apostle Paul admonished us to be all things to all people, adjusting our behavior to cultural milieu. This calls for great consideration in “speaking the language of the sufferer” clearly and directly so mutual understanding is maximized.

Here is a list of some Christianese phrases from Evangelical circles, which can be interpreted in various ways. Other Christian traditions and current fads have their own unique vocabularies. Certain of these words may even be offensive to some, especially those who have been abused by religious figures in the past.

We are not saying the phrases are wrong or innately inaccurate, simply that their use may not facilitate accurate communication with all injured people. Our challenge is to become more sensitive to the potential misinterpretation or misleading rendering of our words. Even if the phrase is Biblical and conveys solid truth, it may not be comprehensible to a person with little or no church background.

 Some Christianese Phrases 

  1. Line up, Brother
  2. Saving the lost world
  3. It’s a process
  4. Don’t forsake the assembling
  5. Who is your covering?
  6. Watch your confession
  7. I’ll cover it in prayer
  8. God told me
  9. It’s not my gifting
  10. Let God open the door
  11. Praise the Lord
  12. In the flow
  13. God’s not moving that way right now.
  14. Touch not God’s anointed
  15. Bring the tithe to the storehouse
  16. It’s in the flesh
  17. It causes division
  18. It’s my ministry
  19. Glory!
  20. Seeds of discord
  21. Sheep stealers
  22. Praise report
  23. Hearts and minds
  24. In leadership
  25. Traveling mercies
  26. Plead the blood of Jesus

If you’ve been in Christian circles long, we’re sure you can probably add to the list. Be careful to use your words and actions in the ministry of reconciliation, not as a way to fortify walls of separation (2 Corinthians 5: 18-20).