I came across an article on cnn.com this weekend that was titled, "Do you speak Christian?", which got me thinking about how we in the church typical speak about our faith and following Christ to those outside of the church. In other words, I have often wondered, do we make any sense to those outside of our own faith circles?
This article appears to answer that questions with a big flopping NO. It uses common examples of phrases used such as: "born again", "have you been saved?", "pray the prayer", etc. Looking back over these phrases I understand exactly what every single one of them is asking because I have been cultured within the church. It doesn't mean that I choose to use these particular phrases, although I have been guilty of using all of them at one point or another in my life.
So you might be reading this right now and wondering, so what? What is the big deal that we use "Christian" phrases within church. It is not so much an issue that you use Christian phrases within the church, it is that often the phrases being used make no sense to those outside the church and then we look like idiots when we try to communicate with them. An example of this would be try to explain your faith and how you came to be a Christ follower without using typical Christian phrases. I bet most of you reading this would struggle to make it more than one minute.
The other issue at stake as pointed out in the article is that often words used within Christianity will be used in a different manner than they were intended to be used. Marcus Borg says it like this, "When Christians forget what their words mean, they forget what their faith means." Many people in our churches have not taken the time to dig into the Scriptures along with a Bible Dictionary to understand and grasp the real meaning behind some of the words that are used within the church.
Bill Leonard points out that, "Jesus spoke in a way that drew people in, He used stories, parables, and metaphors. He communicated in images that both the religious and nonreligious folks of his day understood." So this is the picture that we get of Jesus, but not the picture that we get with most of his modern day followers.
My challenge to you today is that if you find yourself constantly using only phrases that those within the church would understand then you need to stop and find a different way of communicating as Christ communicated. It is difficult to communicate the gospel when the audience you are talking to has no concept of what you are even talking about. I also challenge you to go beyond merely taking a certain belief or doctrine and believing as if you have full understanding, but take the time to dig into the truth of Scripture to see fully where the doctrine developed and why it is held within the church today. You may even be surprised to learn that some of the beliefs you hold may not even be in Scripture or your particular interpretation may only be held in the church you grew up in.