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Visitors cannot be expected to understand all that goes on in the context of church. Very often, the one thing visitors do know when they come to church is that they’re out of the loop; particularly, when it comes to the language that we speak in church, or “Christianese.” When they hear words they don’t recognize, one of two things happens:
-They are taught what these words mean and they feel included in the conversation, or
-Words are not explained and visitors are confused and made to feel excluded and unimportant.
It’s very natural to develop verbal shortcuts among our groups and close communities. They save time and assure us in our sense of community and belonging. The downfall to verbal shortcuts in church is that they can create walls between us and visitors.
Think about the average church visitor that doesn’t know God, and who has trouble defining a word as common to us as grace. Would this visitor be able to understand, or at least have explained to them all that is said in your church on Sunday mornings? Think about these common church words: Anointing. Saved. Redeemed. Lost. Called. Communion. Iniquity. Intercession. Apostle. Consecrate. Transgression. Rapture. Sanctification.
It is easy to forget that some of the words in our everyday jargon are not so common in the world outside the church. I want to challenge you to start evaluating your level of Christianese and how often unfamiliar terms are explained to people who might not understand our language.
What are some other words that the average visitor at your church might not understand?
Posted on Thu, Feb 26, 2009 @ 10:04 AM CST
Good thoughts. I once made a list of Christianeze words and played "taboo" with them. Taboo is that game with the buzzer where you have to describe something without using a certain list of words, which happen to be the ones you usually use to get the job done. If someone uses a taboo word, you hit the buzzer and they jump outta their skin. Fun!
Posted on Sat, Feb 28, 2009 @ 12:07 AM CST
Mark C. Phinney
The problem is even more pronounced among the various jurisdictions of the Eastern Orthodox Church. ("[J]urisdictions" is an example of Eastern Orthodox "Christianese".] Depending upon the original ethnic origin of the particular jurisdiction, a visitor may face words from Old Church Slavonic, Russian, Ukrainian, Greek, or Arabic, to name just the ones I have encountered over the past 20 years.
Posted on Sat, Feb 28, 2009 @ 7:37 AM CST
other verbal stumbling blocks:
confession, pardon, gospel, epistle, psalm, hymn, hymnal, doxology, gloria patri, benediction, anthem, proclamation, testimony, membership, sacrament, disciple/ship, Lord & savior, redeemer, messiah, trinity, doctrine...this list could get really long really quick :)
I've recently changed the key words in our worship outline to things like: gather, sing, pray, listen, offering our selves (prayers, presence, gifts and service). I think these explain our movements with more accessible language without sacrificing the depth of the worship experience. Most of us couldn't explain the etymology of the word "hymn" anyway.
Thanks for the conversation
Posted on Sat, Feb 28, 2009 @ 12:15 PM CST
I think a word that gets people concerned is "fellowship". It doesn't fit in our daily lives but we use it a lot with other Christians
Posted on Mon, Mar 2, 2009 @ 8:11 AM CST
Great point! As a youth minister I realized this early on in my ministry. Thankfully so because most adults who have been Christian for some time usually don't understand these words. Justification, born again, 'the world,' and repentance are also some Christianese words.
And I think I might steal, um I mean borrow ;), Brad's idea for Taboo.
Posted on Tue, Mar 3, 2009 @ 10:21 AM CST