Are you speaking Christianese to non-Christians? Here are ten translations to use instead

I found this article by J. Warner Wallace in Pastor Matt’s “Three Things You Need to Read This Week” round-up.

First, the list of Christianese: (not his term)

  • #1. “God has put you (or something) on my heart. / God told me.”
  • #2. “Be ‘born again.’ / Have a spiritual rebirth.”
  • #3. “You need to come to repentance. / Experience a conversion.”
  • #4. “Deal with your sin.”
  • #5. “Invite Jesus into your heart.”
  • #6. “Make Jesus the Lord of your life.”
  • #7. “Have faith.”
  • #8. “Be saved.”
  • #9. “Be washed by the blood of the Lamb.”
  • #10. “Be Sanctified.”
  • Bonus Expression #11. “Enjoy fellowship.”

This article is pretty funny, but it ought to be because I think we really need to shame church Christians when they talk like this.

Here’s the one I liked best:

#5. “Invite Jesus into your heart.”
You mean like a boyfriend? What exactly does that mean to have “Jesus in my heart?” I’m not an emotional kind of guy, so please don’t ask me to sing songs or hold hands with Jesus, especially in public. Do I have to emasculate myself to become a Christian? If so, thanks for reminding me why I’m not a Christian.

Try this instead: “When we admit our imperfections, believe Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our mistakes, and accept His sacrifice, we can start a new relationship with God.”

LOL! Oh my gosh it’s a wonder that any rough men become Christians after what they find in church.

He concludes:

I understand the importance of our theologically rich Christian language, and as a Christian I often use similar words when talking with Christians. But when I’m talking with unbelievers, I try to think about how I used to hear and interpret these words before I became a Christian. How do I share what I believe? I take the time to translate important Christian concepts for those who might be willing to entertain the ideas if only I was willing to speak their language.

I have been mentoring a friend lately in Christian apologetics, and one of the things I’ve been doing related to this is to have lunches with all of my non-Christian co-workers so that we could have some real non-Christians to talk about. And then afterwards, I send her the after action reports so she can see how I was able to turn the conversation to the things we are studying. There is almost no Christianese during these lunch meetings, because I am talking to non-Christians. On Friday, I had lunch with a Muslim-raised atheist from India, and naturally we were talking about Easter and other stuff like the Protestant Reformation. But I didn’t use any weird terminology with him. I am used to that, because my whole family is non-Christian.

I think that there is a real need for churches to train Christians in how to bring up topics that are of interest to Christians in public. The approach I’ve always taken is to have a broad worldview, including areas like economics and policy, so that I wouldn’t just sit there silent while other people are talking. You have to show that you have knowledge in real-world areas before anyone will listen to you about other things. That’s my approach anyway. You really have to establish your credentials before you start to speak about spiritual things.

 

5 thoughts on “Are you speaking Christianese to non-Christians? Here are ten translations to use instead”

  1. Very interesting article, I appreciated #1,5, 6, 7, & 8…however, for #2, I will have to think of another way to explain “born again”…because it’s definitely a spiritual experience not a mental one (as the term “reconsider” suggests). Thanks for sharing this–I wasn’t aware of how confusing my “Christianese” could be :)

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  2. WK: This is very useful. Dealing with #4; ‘sin’ to an unbelieving world means absolutely nothing but a ‘church’ word used to describe something about behavior. I would dare say almost none of the people I’ve encountered would even know how to define it (along with many Christians, I might add)! To the unsaved, when witnessing, I like to use ‘crimes against God’. They understand that crime is a punishable offense in the world they live in and they see the ramifications of crime unchecked in their daily lives. This personalizes their behavior and they see that they are a ‘law breaker’ and will face a judge (Jesus) who will sentence them for their crimes (hell). I’ve found that even with the most un-churched people you can find, they’ll understand that.
    (Many thanks to the STR team and Greg Koukl for helping me learn this). Brett

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  3. “Invite Jesus into your heart.”

    I really cringe when I hear this phrase, even now. Its not a masculinity thing either – it just makes no sense at all since it lacks context. It is the vaguest jargon ever.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that these phrases are a bit like evangelical ‘suitcases’ which we hand to those outside of the faith, expecting that they will understand everything which we have bundled into the suitcase marked ‘Invite Jesus into your heart’ or ‘Faith’.

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    1. What I liked about Wallace is that he is coming from a tough, masculine, real-world perspective. None of the feminized happy-talk that people say in church can be used on Monday morning, and I wish we would realize that and adjust.

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