A Question of Christian-ese

There’s a fair chance if you are reading this (which you are) that you have come across at least some Christianese. This is the slang that develops around a Christian community, and is a very natural way for us as humans to communicate quickly to others with whom we share something like an interest or a hobby. Slang develops quickly and evolves randomly within any community – just imagine the last time that you joined a new job, sports team, or neighbourhood. As well as the proper names for things that are referred to in conversation, there are also the shorthand words that you just have to learn. 

In Christian circles, this has to be distinguished from academic theological terms (justification, exegesis, etc. etc.) but is instead the normal words used which we almost become blind to see. For some, it’s obvious where they come from; the Bible Belt across America, or (spiritual) gifts etc. Others are much harder to track down. In the same way, some are very widespread – think back to “What Would Jesus Do?” – whilst others exist only within a small group. 

In a session talking about how we organise our worship life at Kings a while ago, one of these small-scale examples was brought to my attention. In pre-COVID times, when we passed buckets to the back for the offering between worship and the sermon, the motion was always described as “wending”. Why wending you may ask? I don’t know if there is anyone who knows how we fell into using a word in every service that was unusual at its peak popularity back in 1850.

In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul is discussing how he chooses not to exercise his rights as an apostle in order that there might be no barrier for those whom the gospel is reaching. This ends with the famous words:

“I have become all things to all people, so that I might by any means save some.”

Well, if that is the principle that Paul is operating under, then should we not do the same? Granted he is talking of weightier matters of the law, but we should seek to dismantle barriers to people coming to faith, whether they be financial, cultural, linguistic or anything else. These individual and collective habits will spring up naturally, and if understandable they do no harm, but we do need to cast a keen eye over them regularly. What habits/barriers might you need to take another look at today?