Speaking in tongues is an experience, subsequent to salvation, where Christians receive the ability to pray in an unknown (to them) language, as enabled by the Holy Spirit. The one doing the speaking has no idea what he/she is saying, although someone listening might recognize the words as being in the hearer’s native language.
Over the years I’ve seen-and experienced-a phenomenon that is just the opposite: the language being spoken is seemingly understood by the one doing the speaking. Too often, however, the words being spoken are either not being understood at all or (worse) are being misunderstood by the hearer. It’s called “Christianese”.
What is “Christianese”? Christianese is a compilation of words, phrases, and expressions used by Christians to describe experiences and/or events relating to one’s walk with God. These experiences/events often refer to something happening in a church service-on the platform or at the front of the auditorium, for examples. Right or wrong, good or bad, well intended of not, Christianese can be confusing to those new to the faith-especially those with little or no church background. Why is this?
Such phrases as “slain in the Spirit”, words like “anointed” and “sanctified”-these are everyday expressions for those who’ve walked with God for a while. For those, however, who are fresh out the womb, spiritually speaking, this may be as unknown as speaking in tongues was to those in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost.
I touch on this, briefly, in my book Born To Win: A Study Guide for the New Believer, available on kindle and ibooks, or through our office. In the book I offer definitions for some phrases most Christians will hear at some point, including “slain in the Spirit.” Since the Holy Spirit isn’t going around killing people, it would be more accurate to say “fallen in the Spirit” to describe someone having fallen under the power of the Holy Spirit. Even accuracy, however, can be misunderstood by those new to the faith.
There’s a real need among those in leadership to simplify their words, phrases, and expressions when teaching, in and out of the pulpit. Don’t expect everyone to understand all those Christianese words you’re tossing around. Don’t assume that someone over 40 knows what you mean. Some folks come to the Lord with absolutely no church background, whatsoever. For some, coming to Christ in a service was that person’s first venture through church doors.
Without compromising let’s work to keep our words simple and clear. Let’s keep them void of unexplained phraseology that confuses, rather than clarifies our message.
It worked for Jesus. It will work for us.
Do you speak in “Christianese?” I know I have, and I’m working to do better. What are some ways you can simplify your words, without compromising your message?