Thursday, September 08, 2011


I'm known as a rebel by many who know me well and after this post I may also be known as a cynic. Although I think that would will miss the mark of reality a bit. I'm saying this because I want to address something that has bothered me for several years now and seems to be getting worse instead of better. It is the use of what I call Christian-ese.

Christian-ese, which cannot be found in Webster's dictionary, is a word of recent vintage that has come to define certain words or phrases used by Christians in everyday language that have become not much more than meaningless cliches. Christian-ese has developed over the past few years among some Christians and now seems to be something of a secret, coded language and is almost a badge worn by people who appear to find their comfort zone to be only with others like themselves. But I'm concerned that it may, in fact, unconciously feed a need to be known as spiritual as opposed to carnal. [Who can know the motives of another person with any certainty!]

My basic concern with all this is Three-fold.

One thing is that the Christian-ese lingo is generally thought of as conveying biblical truth when it doesn't really do that at all. "I feel in my heart God wants me to______" is not a biblical method for knowing and doing God's will. "Let this MIND be in you...who THOUGHT it not good to remain equal with God..." is the biblical pattern. [Phil. 2:5-6] The Bible always speaks of the thinking processes when discovering and doing the will of God. Paul said..."It seemed good to me."...when addressing something to be done except on rare occasions.

 In Romans 14 when addressing making choices about questionable things his advise was NOT "Feel God impressing your heart"...but "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own  mind." [14:5b]He said in another place.. "For we have the mind of Christ" [1 Corinth. 2:16]  which is further indication that it is the mind that is as important as anything in Christianity, with all due respect to anyone who might think Christians are only ignorant and emotional.

A second concern is that such lingo too often becomes a source of measuring spirituality or spiritual growth.  I've met new believers who sometimes end up feeling inferior or less "spiritual" because they don't know all the "right" phrases yet. Or worse, they think someone is spiritual who does use the language.

The truth is it doesn't measure true spirituality at all and, in reality, may hide an immaturity behind that kind of language. To continually say, as I once did, "well, praise the Lord,"  at ever opportunity, may sounds as if we're spiritually minded in all things, when in fact it can be as vain and empty as those who say "Well, fiddlesticks" [or worse] at every opportunity.  I'm speaking from personal experience here as you can probably tell.  

But a third concern is my greatest. It seems to me that it may forge an unnecessary stumbling block for unbelievers. I often wonder if non-believers hear some Christians talking and think, "Ugh, there go those Christians on their high-horse again using their silly, secret coded language." I know that I have that reaction sometimes and I'm in sympathy with the Christian message completely. It seems to me when we Christians develop our own private language to be used with one another, we may have really forgotten how Jesus made Himself accessible to ordinary people. Using Christian-ese often does exactly the opposite which models the Pharisees rather than the Messiah. 

 But therein lies the real problem. Our message of the gospel is, in and of itself, offensive to the natural mind anyway. We don't need to create unnecessary obstacles which trite, empty, meaningless, cliches tend to do. I think we, as Christians, may need a new discovery of Koine-English [Common English] as an effective tool of communication much as the early Christians found Koine-Greek [Common Greek] to be an effective tool for conveying the gospel message.

Let me give just a few examples of some Christian-ese phrases along with what is probably meant if the truth were to be known.

"I feel in my heart God wants me to_______"  Translated means... "I'm going to do it and I hope it's the right thing to do."

"I'm still waiting for God to open some doors."  Translated means... "I don't have a clue about what I'm going to do and I'm hesitant to do anything."

"I can't do_______, so Christ in me will have to do it."  Translated means... "I'm struggling with wanting to do this at all and sure don't want to do it right now."

"I need to share with you where the devil is attacking me."  Translated means..."I want to tell you where I'm struggling and some of my failures and I feel badly about them."

I'm wondering why we can't, as the post title puts it, say what we mean and mean what we say? 

Of course the answer to all this isn't to "not speak at all" but rather to talk like normal people and act in such a fashion [Grace, acceptance, forgiveness, love, integrity] that our lives stir some to ask us about what makes the difference in us and then share the truth of our Lord. 

I think that is what could be called...Christianity.  

If you wish to... just for fun...add any words or phrases that you view as the best illustrations of Christian-ese in the comment section.

Paul B.


Bob Cleveland said...

One of the ones that I find disturbing is "unspoken prayer request". When someone mentions that, I always think of someone saying "I have two unspoken requests" to which I respond "I'm a little short on time .. which one of them do you want me to pray for?".

Seriously, when we have ordination councils, I ask candidates something like "The Bible says a qualification for deacons is to be filled with the Holy Ghost ... can you tell me know you know you are .. and NOT use the phrase "the Bible says so", or anything concerning how you feel?"

I have yet to have anyone answer that with any measure of clarity whatsoever, which tells me just how dependent we we've become on "buzzwords", which is what I call them.

And then there's "active & faithful in a local church". And I've heard "saved & love the Lord", applied to a couple who hadn't been in church in 17 years.

There are, of course, several others which will come to mind immediately upon my pushing the "Publish your comment" button.


Aussie John said...


If you are being cynical, then I must wear the label as well.

You have covered it very well.

My concern is the number of those claiming to be orthodox evangelicals, who are in trusted leadership/teaching roles,who are using such terminology in their preaching. Of course, no one listening can question when "God has revealed to me", or "God told me", without being greeted with a shocked, "Are you questioning God?"

The "gift of discernment" is one of these Christian-ese terms being done to death, by people who have an inherent need to be noticed as "spiritual".

Someone once commented, "Those who have their head in the clouds cannot have their feet on the ground".

Thank you for sound thinking.

Anonymous said...

Aussie John named a popular one (“God told me”) and I’ll add what one pastor said why he was accepting a larger church: “…and you can’t argue with God”.

In less than two years, more than half the people left, and the pastor was told there wasn’t enough money to pay his salary as they were selling the parsonage to pay past bills.

Needless to say, ‘God ‘called’ him to another church.
The young pastor was a fundamentalists who said, “I don’t do physical labor” when asked to help on a church project.

I heard this one once: “I’ve had a vision…”

Paul, I know husbands and wives usually think alike but didn’t Mary cover this subject on her blog several years ago?

Do you notice some people don't comment unless they can tell about themselves or some great book they've read.
But then again we all like to talk about ourselves.:)

Paul Burleson said...


Just home from several days at Big Cedar Lodge near Branson Mo. I didn't have Internet connections and my phone wouldn't post.

Rex, Mary has written about everything I know anything about. I get MOST of my stuff from her. LOL

Kate Johnson said...

Frankly, I am getting tired of the Gospel-______ phrases... you know, it's gospel-soaked, gospel-drenched, gospel-centered. Fill in the blank. How weird that must sound to someone who doesn't know the gospel. Besides, as Christians isn't everything supposed to be gospel-centered? Why do we have to say it ad nauseum?

Now that I got that off my chest....

Paul Burleson said...


I have a feeling you might be on to something here. Thanks.

Kate Johnson said...

yes, Paul. Now a days, I click on a blog and if the post starts with gospel-something, I don't even read it. And isn't it interesting how when one person starts it, everyone else jumps on board so now the "young, restless and reformed" are all using it. Makes me think of "we all like sheep have gone astray"...

Christiane said...

last night on television, I heard a group of people at a political debate yell 'let him die', others laughed and cheered.

The moderator had asked a question of a candidate whether, if in theory, 'society' should pay for life-saving care for a thirty-year old man for a period of six-months, if the man was not insured.

So the crowd responded . . . they said what they meant, spontaneously and openly, cheering and clapping.

I thought to myself, this is what it must have been like in the Roman amphitheaters when people shouted
'let him die'?

I'm a fan of 'listening' and 'trying to understand',
but I can say exactly what I mean concerning what I heard last night:

It made me fearful for our citizens who are medically vulnerable in this country, if the majority of our countrymen and women share the 'values' of that debate audience I heard last night.

I am very fearful for the protection of those who depend for survival on the mercy of others in this strange new America.