Have you ever been to a doctor who talks to you in medical terms, and you’re staring at him/her with a huge question mark on your face? Well, that happened to me when I went into the ER last year. He was super nice and kind in telling me what I was suffering from… but he used vocabulary that was completely foreign to me. My heart skipped a beat couple times because it sounded scary. I kept saying “what does that mean?” In the end, it was nothing serious… I just needed super strong pain-killer and wait out my horrible stomach flu…
Awhile back, I was leading VBS for another church, and I asked the kids “if you knew that God was listening and He answered your questions right away, what would you ask Him?” A fifth grade boy raised his hand and said “I would ask God to reveal his glory.” Another boy said “I would ask God to be pleased with our worship.” Ehhh??? This was SOOOOOO not what I was expecting. My volunteers and I looked at each other in confusion–“wow, these are some holy kids,” we thought. Afterwards, I probed to see if these boys understood what they had said. Just as I thought… they were fishing for the right answer… but they had no idea what “revealing God’s glory” or “being pleased with our worship” meant. I can barely understand and explain what it would mean for God to reveal His glory… wow!!!
I’ve been thinking about this for some time… I’m used to Christianese because I grew up in the church. I speak it with my Christian friends… but it saddens me to think that kids in church grow up learning what to say (thinking it’s the right answer) without understanding what it means… It’s like when you have a room full of preschoolers in Sunday School, and they say “Jesus” or “Bible” regardless of the question. Unfortunately we assume these kids understand because we often ask questions where the answers are “Jesus, “Bible,” or “Church.” We rarely ask open-ended questions where kids have to think about what they’re saying. If we want to raise children to share their belief and commitment to Jesus, then we need to teach them to use everyday language to effectively communicate this truths.
I’ve often observed that some of my Christian friends and I have very compartmentalized conversations–meaning, we talk about how we’re doing, we talk about fun stuff, we talk about what’s bothering us, and “God/Jesus” talk doesn’t make an appearance ’til we get to serious “christian” talk. This used to really bother me… and then it hit me.. it’s because we haven’t been taught to have normal faith talks. Faith talks were always done in Christianese… This is something I’m very conscious of and trying to change. I sure don’t want children to grow up thinking faith talks can only be in Christianese… I hope that faith talks are part of their every day conversation in everyday language… because this is how they can share Jesus with everyone! Otherwise, we’re just turning them into doctors who only use big-medical words and freak out bunch of their patients because they can’t explain the most important truths adequately.
By the way, I have nothing against Christianese… I believe there are appropriate time and place to use them… but teaching kids (and adults) Christianese without understanding, I’m totally against! And more importantly, Christians just need to know everyday “God-stuff” language when talking to those that don’t know Christianese.
One thought on “christianese as second language”
Hey Gloria, this is a very good post…
I shared the frustration you had in your VBS class just reading about it…
“We rarely ask open-ended questions where kids have to think about what they’re saying. If we want to raise children to share their belief and commitment to Jesus, then we need to teach them to use everyday language to effectively communicate this truths…Otherwise, we’re just turning them into doctors who only use big-medical words and freak out bunch of their patients because they can’t explain the most important truths adequately.”
That is so on point. My desire is that we as the church continue to grow in having (as you put it) “normal faith talks”
Thanks for posting….