2 Timothy 3:16 | Titus 2:7-8
Do you speak Christianese?
Any group of people with a common interest will, at some point, develop their own way of speaking. Think about it…if you’re with surfers, it is much easier to say “I got barreled” than “I went right by where the wave was breaking and I ducked down underneath the water that was flying out in front.”
If you’re with baseball players, it’s much easier to say, “he hit a grand slam” than “he hit the ball so far that it went over the whole field and even the fence, and he did it while all the bases had players on them.”
If you’re with Christians, it is easier to pray for “traveling mercies” than to ask God “to keep her from crashing into any other cars, or breaking down on the side of the road, or any number of other horrors that could take place on a long trip such as hers.”
It is easier. But is it better?
Some people say no, arguing that ‘Christianese’–Christians’ insider lingo–is confusing to outsiders and therefore creates a cliquey, exclusive environment. They are in favor of keeping things welcoming and inviting. And why not?
Others say it is better, for the same reason that it is easier to say “Grandma frogged her sweater neck to add a zipper” than “Grandma cut and partially unraveled the neck of the sweater she knitted, so that she could attach a zipper in the newly made opening.” If you are talking to people who know knitting lingo, why do you need to explain everything?
Which is right? It depends on who you talk to. And we mean that literally…
If you are talking with someone who understands your Church Speak, then you may as well save words by using the lingo. If there are others present who might not be able to follow, you could thoughtfully explain what you mean, or use less cryptic language in the first place.
If there is any language that bonds Christians, it is the Word of God. It is scripture.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.2 Timothy 3:16 NLT
What we say may be even more important than how we say it. There will always be insiders and outsiders, supporters and dissenters. The Apostle Paul advises us to show integrity–which is really a type of sameness–so that outsiders and dissenters alike have nothing against us.
In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.Titus 2:7b-8 NIV
Questions for Group Discussion
- Do you think Christianese is helpful or harmful? Why?
- Is it always necessary to concern yourself with the opinions of outsiders? If not, when should or shouldn’t you?
- Is God completely inclusive? What is his attitude toward the uninitiated? Can you find scripture to support your argument?
Challenge: Talk the Talk
What’s more fun than social media? A social experiment! Especially when it’s not too complicated…
This social experiment is pretty simple. You might even find it fun. But you cannot do it alone.
- With a friend, invent your own lingo.
- Come up with at least 25 words or phrases that only make sense to the two of you.
- Practice using the new words until you become conversant with them.
- Try your new lingo (the two of you) within a larger group setting.
- Pay attention to how the other people respond to not knowing your lingo.
- Make notes on what you find.
- How bothered would you say the outsiders were by your lingo?
- Was there anything you could do to make the situation easier or better for the outsiders?
- What was your attitude toward the fact that outsiders didn’t know your lingo?
- How much do you think your attitude affected the outsiders’ responses?
- In terms of percentage, how much of their response was based on your private lingo, and how much was based on your attitude? (For example: “78% was the lingo, 12% was our attitude,” etc.)