I’m working on changing the way I talk. As much as I’d love to resurrect the New York accent of m
y childhood, that’s not what I mean. What happened was that I started listening to myself when I pray.
Have you ever noticed that evangelicals have a language all our own? We throw around phrases like “plan of salvation” and “ask Jesus into your heart.” We say that “God showed up”, or we “didn’t feel led.” We pray for a “hedge of thorns” around people… and when we’re really worked up, “hedge of thorns AND wall of fire.”
If you’re not used to this sort of talk, it can sound a little weird, or hyper-spiritual. Churchy people know what we mean when we say these things. But I wonder… does everyone?
I attend a socioeconomically diverse, urban church. On any given Sunday it’s possible that there are people in the pews for whom this is their first church experience. In fact, we hope for this. We plan for it, actually. So when I’m serving in a visible role or praying for people during the service, what language am I using? Am I using the “Christianese” of in-the-know evangelicals, or am I using normal words?
I don’t believe Christian catchphrases are inherently wrong. In fact, most of them have Scriptural origins. For example, the hedge thing comes from several references (Hosea 2:6, Micah 7:4, Mark 12:1). But I do believe it’s important to be choosy about when we use them.
Our most important calling in this world is to love God, and just after that, to love people. Is it loving to use words that people outside of our particular church walls don’t recognize? Are our words life-giving to all who hear them, or not?
“Christianese” automatically creates a division between those who use it and those who don’t. It’s usual for groups to adopt certain expressions as a form of group identity; those who know the words are in the “club”, while those who don’t… aren’t. So if one of the stated beliefs of evangelicals is that they’re always looking to add people to the club, shouldn’t our language be inclusive?
You know what? I believe it’s preferable to use simple language even when we’re talking to fellow evangelicals. It gives us a chance to practice humility instead of elevating ourselves by way of our language, and it helps us become more effective communicators.
I’m giving us a personal challenge. In our lives of talking about God or praying for people, let’s use normal words. When we’re serving in church, – normal words. If we sit next to visitors, introduce ourselves with – normal words. And if we get to pray for someone, – normal words.
Maybe instead of praying a hedge of thorns over somebody, we could simply ask God to protect them. Maybe instead of going through an elaborate “plan of salvation”, we could simply tell people that God loves them and wants to be part of their lives. After all, it’s true. Of everyone.
photo via Visual Hunt