“Christianese”: Not Suitable for Small Group

Every group tends to have their own terms and language that only “insiders” understand. For proof, here’s a link to 31 military phrases only people in the military will understand. Or 22 phrases that only wall streeters will understand.  Christians are no different. I grew up around church and church people and it wasn’t until I was in college that I realized half the things Christians talk about make no sense to people who aren’t Christian. (In reality, half the things Christians say don’t even make sense to themselves.)

“Christianese”: N. 1. Any word or phrase you use to sound more “spiritual” in a situation. (I feel led to…, I’m praying about…, I’m feeling really convicted about…, It’ll be great to fellowship tonight…) 2. Any overly-complicted theological phrase that only Christians understand. (accept Jesus as your Savior, saved by the blood of the lamb, gospel, and even sin)

In small group, you have to be very careful about the language you use when talking about Christianity. One of my favorite things about group, is bringing people from different backgrounds, experiences, age groups, etc. together and learning from each other. If people feel like you’re theologically superior to them, they’ll be less apt to share. And they won’t feel like a true part of the group. They may even feel like they’re not a good enough Christian yet because they don’t understand the confusing words you use.

Check out the prayer below for examples of phrases that would confuse a non-Christian or new Christian:

Dear Lord Jesus Christ,
By the power of your shed blood, we want to come before you tonight and lay before your throne our dear brother. May you wash him with your presence as he heads out on this trip you have called him to. May he feel led by your Spirit and may his territory be enlarged. Lead him into his calling and ministry as your sacrificial blood covers him on this special mission. Cast his fears into the abyss and place a large hedge of protection around him as we pray for traveling mercies.  Thank you that you will help him return from the grocery store with the cereal that you want him to have, the cereal that you will lead him to, in accordance with your divine will. Amen.

I hope your group doesn’t pray like this for common trips to the grocery store. But, if a non-Christian heard this prayer, they’ll think you’re crazy! Legitimately crazy. What in the heck is a traveling mercy? (Seriously, I’m not sure I know what it is.) And I’m not even going to touch a prayer for an “enlarged territory” (But, it sounds like something you should have checked out by your doctor).

Here’s my challenge- whether you have non-Christians in your group or not. Try to break down every theological term you use in group to its most simple form. Break it down until you can’t anymore. Pretend like there’s a two year old in the room, and after everything you say they respond by asking, “But, what does that mean?” And you have to keep answering until you can’t make it anymore clear or simple.

Sometimes in group I find myself about to say something, but then take an extra second to translate it into “normal” language. For example, instead of saying, “The Apostle Paul” (what in the heck is an apostle), I’ll say, “Paul, who started a bunch of churches.” Instead of saying, “Have you ever sinned?”, I might say, “Have you ever made a mistake before? Or a mistake that you felt hurt how you related to God or others?” To be honest, when I do this, it helps whatever I’m trying to say make more sense to me.

Here’s an article that talks more about Christianese:
Dictionary of Christianese
How Not to Speak Christianese

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