The problem of “church words”

Church words.
They are a problem.
We (Christians) use words that we learn in church. We know what they mean. But that doesn’t mean everyone else does.
It’s like slang words / phrases – figures of speech.

““Did she say anything else?”
“Yes—something that really bothered me.”
“What was that?”
“She said—and I recall this very well—Mary Sue said she was ‘giving Joshua to God.’ That’s exactly what she said.”
“Do you know what she meant by that?”
“Objection—speculation!” Will rapped out.
The judge overruled the objection.
“I was afraid that she might have made a decision—a very frightening decision—that somehow Joshua would be better off in heaven with God.”
“Is that when you called the Department of Social Services?” “That’s what I did, yes.””

          from “Custody of the State (Chambers of Justice Book 2)” by Craig Parshall

The book is fictional.

The story though – I wouldn’t be surprised if things like this really happen.

Interestingly enough – I was watching an old episode of Law & Order while having lunch, the same day I read this part of the book.  And they were having the same issues.  Someone was being questioned by the DA – and as part of the answer the person says that something “wasn’t on my radar”.  So the question back to the witness was about what he said being a figure of speech – it’s not like the person actually had a radar device at work or at home.  Everyone knows what the person meant.  Unless – maybe someone was watching from another country that learned English as a second language – and hadn’t learned that particular figure of speech.  Then – that person may be wondering if people here actually had their own personal radar units.

So I read this, and wondered why we make up these terms / phrases.  
It’s short – it’s easy to say.
But it’s so confusing for someone who isn’t already Christian and doesn’t yet know our words.  
It puts them in the position of having to ask questions about what we said.
Or maybe it leaves them in the dark – because they didn’t ask, because they’re self-conscious about not knowing English.
Or maybe they just walk away from Christianity because they think we’re trying to keep something secret by using these strange words.
Or – maybe the scenario in the book plays out.

None of those are good.

I’ve become more conscious of that as we try to include people who come from China – speak little English – are too self-conscious to ask – and are lost as far as what we’re trying to say.

In the Great Commission, Jesus tells us –

Mt 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

That’s really hard to do if we’re not taking care to use words that people in or from other nations will actually understand.

It’s hard enough to get the message of The Gospel.  Adding strange words / figures of speech makes it even harder.


I think the problem is not theirs – it’s ours.

When we reach out to others, we need to remember where they are – and try to reach them.

And that includes being understandable – and practicing patience as we teach them in a way that makes it easy for them to understand.


The quote and details on the book are at —

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