You Speak Christianese or Christian-ease?
Many friends I grew up with back in the 70s weren’t “churched.” They weren’t privy to all the religious sounding talk that was so common in my world back then. Once I brought a friend to a Sunday service; she became confused when I addressed everyone as “Brother Smith” or “Sister Jones.” After the introductions, she pulled me aside and said, “Sue, I know it’s a small church, but are you related to everybody here?”
During the nostalgic days of flannelgraph Bible stories and chalkboard dust, we would play some great little games like “Bible Baseball” and “Sword Drill.” One little girl’s first encounter with Sunday School and hearing “Sword Drill” caused her to say out loud, “Oh no, my mom will never let me play with anything sharp. I cut off my hair with scissors last week and I’m still grounded.” (Just in case you’re un-churched or too young, “Sword Drill” was a Bible quick-response verse search game where— with Bibles in hand—we’d flip though pages and race to find the chapter and verse the teacher announced. The winner was the first one to stand and read it aloud).
A new young Christian raised on the streets asked his pastor if he could participate in the Communion service. The young man begged to say something prior to the elements being distributed to the congregation. Apprehensively, the pastor slowly handed the Communion cup to the young man. In his exuberance and joy over his new walk with Christ, the young man lifted the chalice and shouted, “You see this cup? This blood’s for you!” Then he raised both hands high, pointed to the ceiling and yelled, “You’re the M-A-N!”
When my Jewish friend Mike went to a concert at a Pentecostal church, it was his very first time to be present in an atmosphere of exuberant praise and worship. When the music started and people began raising their hands, Mike couldn’t figure out why so many people had questions about the concert that night. He asked us, “They just kept raising their hands, obviously having questions or comments about the music. Why didn’t anyone acknowledge them?”
Years ago, I would not have been as prepared as I am today for opportunities to speak at secular or “outside the church walls” events. To assume that everyone will understand or comprehend Christianese is a real mistake. Today I am challenged and held accountable to keep from getting caught up in the rhetoric of dated language and religious expression. If I say I am saved, for example, some will inquire, “Saved from what?”
Letting go of Christianese and sharing more with Christian–ease:
1. The proliferation of the spiritual attitude that “I’ve always said it this way” is a real guarantee you’ll be ineffective. It’s nothing more than a habit. Be willing to examine what and how you communicate about Christ.
2. Words like redeemed, saved, sanctified, and blessed are incredibly endearing and meaningful to you and me, but to the new un-churched generation, our words may be perceived much like the droning teacher on the Charlie Brown cartoon series: “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah.” The key is to practice effective communication rather than assuming someone will understand. Speak words that will draw them in—connecting words that create a desire for more of God’s Word (which is the ultimate goal) rather than push them away.
3. Jesus, the Master of communication, told parables using secular examples from His own society and culture to convey more clearly to His listeners. Some heard it; some did not. Some “got it” and were radically changed. Others walked away. Jesus is the example we need to emulate in our communication with others.
“The Message is as true among you today as when you first heard it. It doesn’t diminish or weaken over time. It’s the same all over the world. The Message bears fruit and gets larger and stronger, just as it has in you. From the very first day you heard and recognized the truth of what God is doing, you’ve been hungry for more” (Colossians 1:5,6, The Message).
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