Saturday, December 27, 2014


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 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 or what carnal means for that matter!]

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 advice 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 and NOT intellectual.

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 wind 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 every opportunity, may sound as if we're spiritually minded in all things, when in fact may 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 model
s the Pharisees rather than the Messiah.

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.

1__"I feel in my heart God wants me to_______" Which being interpreted is... "I'm going to do it and I hope it's the right thing to do."

2__"I'm still waiting for God to open some doors." Which being interpreted is... "I don't have a clue about what I'm going to do and I'm hesitant to do anything."

3__"I can't do_______, so Christ in me will have to do it." Which being interpreted is... "I'm struggling with wanting to do this at all and sure don't want to do it right now."

4__"I need to share with you where the devil is attacking me." Which being interpreted is..."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 simply 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.

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


Your subject, as my wife gets sick of hearing me say, is like a stone in my shoe, always irritating, but occasionally painful, when hearing such "spiritual" language used.

I think your words,"The truth is it doesn't measure true spirituality at all and, in reality, may hide an immaturity behind that kind of language.",describe the situation in a large proportion of such language.

We both have experienced times when we had a "sense" about something, but, "it seemed good to me" is what it is all about, placing the responsibility on our shoulders rather than God.

It was common in one place in which I was pastor that "God moved me to say" was the common cover for someone to be critical of another. Of course God had to carry the blame for someone to vent their spleen.

Thanks again for very pertinent words.

May you and your wife have a blessed and happy new year!

Garen Martens said...

Along the same line, the cliched "I'll be praying for you" should be carefully used. When we use that phrase we should be ready to carry through with our word. A better answer is "let me pray with you right now" then if we wish, privately add them to our prayer list. A follow up with the person then makes our concern much more real to them.
Every person I've prayed with, no matter how hardened they were, sincerely thanked me after the prayer.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

EXCELLENT comment. Your statement, "is like a stone in my shoe, always irritating, but occasionally painful." perfectly describes my own irritation over this subject.


What you said about praying RGHT THEN is what I call sound advice. It needs to be added to the illustrations I've given. Thanks for doing just that.

Tom said...

With language we often adopt the "safe" language codes. With the safe codes, we never say what we really mean or mean what we really say.

Let us consider worship songs like, "Lord I want to worship you . . ." which is safe when what we should be saying is, "Lord I worship you . . ." which puts us in a place where we really have to mean what we say.

The use of the word "want" in my mind is a non threatening language style.

How often do we say when we pray for another person by saying, "Lord I want to pray for . . " I am sure that God often responds with, "Well then, when are you going to start actually praying rather than tell me what you want to pray for."

A number of years back, I was going overseas to a third world country where evangelism was frowned upon by the government of that country. A well meaning "Christian" lady asked me if I was afraid to go. I answered her by stating that if I was not prepared to die for what I believe in then there was no point in my going. In other words I had to be prepared to die before I could even consider going to that country.

I then turned the tables and asked her if she was prepared to die for what she believed in. She replied that "if the Lord enables me to, then I suppose I would be."

Many "churchified" people will ask me when I was "saved," but will not cut to the crux of the matter and ask, "How is your relationship with the God that you worship right at this very moment?" This question can be asked of anyone up front in your conversations with people and it will not offend people as much as the question as to whether or not "you are saved?"

Our language tells people just how real we are in what we hold dear in our very existence.

Jesus said the same thing when he told his disciples to take up their own cross and follow Him.


Steve Miller said...


I guess I am one of those who would know you as a rebel, in the proper and challenging way, but I would never view you as a cynic. You just ask great questions and in the questions you are encouraging people to think before they say or act. I believe the writer James had the right words regarding quick to listen, slow to speak and to anger. Don't you think Paul that the over used clich├ęs could also be an indicator of not hiding His Word in our hearts? What I mean is the more I read His Word and hide it in my heart the application is more often than not His Word coming out in my everyday language with a seriousness about what I have just said. I hope I make sense.

I appreciate brother Garen's comment regarding prayer and I would just add that if asked to pray for someone, I either pray right then, write it down in their presence so as not to forget, or I probably will forget it.

Thanks Paul for the timely comments.


Paul Burleson said...


With what you said here I have to agree sadly, which is the ANTITHESIS of what I call for in my post. " With language we often adopt the "safe" language codes. With the safe codes, we never say what we really mean or mean what we really say."

Paul Burleson said...


Your comment is appreciated and I'm hoping you and your sweet wife have GREAT New Year.