Are You “In the Word” … Jargon in the Church

How Language Isolates the Church from the Wider World

I did not grow up in the church.  When people talked about being a “Born Again Christian,” I really didn’t know what they were talking about.  I knew that people in certain Christian denominations or from particular regions of the country were more likely to call themselves “Born Again” than others, but what did it mean?

Then others would talk about their “Walk,” or the “anointing” of Jesus (or a particular person for “ministry”). The bottom line was that I was confused. I wouldn't be surprised if you're confused too.  However, this kind of language gets used every day in churches all around the United States.  It’s a specialized language that’s supposed to it easier for us to talk to each other. It’s a type of jargon.

When I looked up Jargon at Dictionary.com, I found several definitions.  The primary of these is,

“The language, especially the vocabulary, particular to a particular trade, profession, or group: medical jargon.” 
That really does define how the church often means to use its particular language, but how it’s perceived outside of the church (or by visitors) matches much more to the fourth definition. 
“Language that is characterized by uncommon or pretentious vocabulary and convoluted syntax and is often vague in meaning.” 
 In other words, rather than making things clearer and more precise, it makes the speaker or the group seem pretentious, elitist, and exclusionary.

The funny thing is that this can be found among congregations that want to be the most open and hospitable as possible. These Christians go around blissfully unaware that people unfamiliar with the church don’t have the slightest idea what they’re talking about.

So, what am I talking about?  Evangelism, another one of those $5 jargon words, and a very scary one for people in Mainline denominations. In the case of Christians, evangelism is sharing information about Christianity with people outside of the church.  If they’re not familiar with Christianity, they’re certainly not going to understand Christian jargon.  In fact, it may scare them away.

What’s the moral of this story? When you’re talking about the church or Christianity (regardless of where you are or who you’re with) resist using our technical Christian terminology. You never know who might be listening.

Peace out. ;)

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