“Sarah” was confused. She hadn’t been in church circles very long, so when someone started talking about “pouring into” someone else, she couldn’t quite wrap her brain around what that meant.
Sarah is far from alone.
Many unchurched people, or new believers, find themselves having to learn a whole new set of terms once they start hanging out with Christians. Yup, we have our own subculture, including special lingo some refer to as “Christianese.”
I define Christianese as terminology which Christians invent and repeat rather than as terms right out of the Bible.
Terms like sanctification or justification or disciple are not Christianese; they are simply biblical terms which every follower of Jesus needs to learn.
Christianese, on the other hand, is the optional jargon we tend to mindlessly copy from one another.
Here are a few examples (and I’m sure you could add to the list):
“Love on,” as in “So-and-so needs ministry. Let’s love on them.” The intent of this phrase is to demonstrate care toward others, but honestly, it sounds kind of creepy. An uninitiated person might hear it and think, Umm, I feel like I should call the police?…
“Love well.” This one is closely related to the above in that we take a perfectly wonderful word like “love” and then try to improve on it.
Whenever I hear this phrase, I get anxious about my spiritual report card. How well did I love that person? Did I get a B+ for effort?
Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:35).” He didn’t add a qualifier.
How about if we simply love each other like he told us to?
“Doing life together.” This one springs from the habit of Christians meeting together in small groups for discipleship. The phrase is awkward English at best, but we use it because we can’t say “living together.”
Problem is, we don’t really experience all of life together with the folks we gather with once a week. Since we don’t live under the same roof, perhaps it would be more accurate to say we offer friendship and spiritual support to one another.
“Intentional,” as in “Let’s be intentional about reaching out to our neighbors.” This was a good word until it got so overused we don’t hear it anymore. Basically, we’re saying “Be mindful and do stuff on purpose.”
“Just…” This is our most often-used filler word during prayer. “Lord God, would you just move in John’s life, and would you just bring in finances and just bless him, and would you just bring healing…”
Here’s the thing: “just” means “merely” or “only.” If we’re expressing faith in God as we pray, let’s not limit him with our words! After all, he is the God who does far above all we can think or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
A few years ago, I had an English professor from our local state college look at some of my poetry. As he drew a line through a couple of phrases, he remarked, “We’ve heard this expression far too often.”
Then he explained, “Studies show that when people encounter clichés, they literally do not hear what is being said. The words are so worn out and overly familiar that they mean nothing anymore.”
Those of us who follow Jesus have not only been created by God; in Christ, we have also become part of the new creation.
In that light, doesn’t it seem like Christians should be the most creative people on the planet?
As we just do life together and just love on each other well, let’s just be intentional about dropping our Christian clichés.