When I first arrived in Costa Rica, I would stop by a photo copy place quite often and it didn’t take long to figure out that the employees were Christian by the way they talked to each other. They’d use the usual phrases that sound somewhat odd to anybody outside the Church experience.
For example imagine what kind of impact, ¨We’re washed in the blood of the Lamb¨ could make?
Personally, I refrain from using these patterned phrases even when I’m inside the church walls though I respect those who do use them. Anyway, the day I sought to befriend the members of this group (at the copy-machine place), letting them know I was also a Christian, they handed me a Biblical track with a look of unbelief in their eyes. Why? Coz, I didn’t speak their lingo.
David Yeubanks comments, “Most often we are compelled to respond a certain way, feel a certain way, look a certain way, act a certain way – even when that ‘act’ denies what is truly going on inside us. Most of us who have attended Church our whole Christian lives do not really feel free to be openly, blatantly honest about what’s really in our hearts, so we put on smiles, speak in ‘Christianese’ and learn to react to situations and engage in conversations with patterned responses.”
Authenticity is a powerful human connector and positive change agent. Roman 12:9 says that love is to be free of pretense. Sincerity invites people closer, not religious form. I think one great obstacles to God’s message is when we Christians try to show care in a language that we ourselves don’t understand or at least is too vague, but which is ingrained in us. What are these phrases? Like most groups, Christians have a specialized language for those who are truly "in the know".
Before you read any further, I found a cute list of phrases from an Internet site (don’t remember where). Please take in mind that the examples are written tongue-in-cheek and are not intended to offend or mock anyone. Also, the meaning behind each patterned saying is subjective. Many sincere believers use ¨Christianese¨ because they’re not aware it’s patterned or stereotyped, and so perhaps it’s the only way they know how to express their thoughts…
Translation of most common phrases:
Christianese: "If it be God's will."
Translation: "I really don't think God is going to answer this one.
Christianese: "Let's have a word of prayer."
Translation: "I am going to pray for a long, long, long time."
Christianese: "That's not my spiritual gift."
Translation: "Find someone else."
Christianese: "The Lord works in mysterious ways."
Translation: "I'm totally clueless."
Christianese: "Lord willing . . ."
Translation: "You may think I'll be there, but I won't."
Christianese: "I don't feel led."
Translation: "Can't make me."
Christianese: "She has such a sweet spirit!"
Translation: "What an airhead!"
Christianese: "I have a 'check' in my spirit about him."
Translation: "I can't stand that jerk!"
Christianese: "Prayer concerns"
Christianese: "In conclusion . . . "
Translation: "I'll be done in another hour or so."
Christianese: "You just have to put it in God's hands."
Translation: "Don't expect me to help you."
Christianese: "God wants to prosper you!"
Translation: "Give me your money."
Ron Hutchcraft explains further by saying,
“Our ‘Christianese’ encourages a person to "accept Christ as your personal Savior." We are so accustomed to the phrase, it seldom occurs to us that such a statement does not even register on the screen of most people. The average person’s concept of "accepting" a person is nowhere near the biblical imperative of putting one’s total trust in Jesus. The word Savior is seldom used in modern conversation and certainly not in a way that clearly communicates what Christ did for us on the Cross. Asking someone to "receive Christ" is also likely to leave the unspoken response, "I have no idea what that means." Many years ago, people spoke of "receiving" a guest, but these days we "receive" a package or a letter. When we ask someone, "Would you like to receive Christ?" he will likely wonder what we mean. To add to the confusion, there are religious traditions where members "receive Christ" every time they partake of the elements of Holy Communion. Some of our most precious faith-words can be misconstrued, misrepresented, and misunderstood. A few years ago a bumper sticker read: "Jesus saves — but Moses invests." While such irreverence makes us wince, it illustrates how confusing our words can be. For many of the people who need Christ most, a call to be "saved" is baffling.”
We need down-to-earth intelligible words to express what is often an intangible spiritual realm. God is the Lord of freshness, rather than patterned speech, often overblown tired phrases that truncate conversation rather than stimulate it. We are meant to be God’s messengers with an unmistakable individuality. May we replace our ‘Christianese” into life giving words that draw us closer to each other rather than isolating each other.