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The Danger of Christianese

How our church language can do more to exclude people than draw them to Jesus.

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What Does That Really Mean?

As Christians, we would do well to notice Jesus' teaching methods. He used words and illustrations plucked from the daily life of the Judean culture—farming, family, festivals. As leaders and teachers, we must rigorously examine our words, seek to use culture to provide images for our theology, and strive to break down any obstacles that can keep someone from finding Christ.

Several years ago, I was counseling with a young woman serving full-time in a church. During our first session, she offered this observation of her struggles: "Over the past year I've experienced the redemptive qualities of grace."

I nodded my agreement, meanwhile thinking, I have no idea what that really means. And I'm not sure she did either.

Back then, my own insecurity kept me from probing that young woman's statements further. Today, I'd likely press her to give me more words to describe what she'd been experiencing. What does redemptive grace look like to her? Can she give me an example? How is it playing out in her life? What other words would she use to describe the change in her?

It's all too easy to hide behind our washed-in-the-blood, princess-for-Jesus verbiage. Instead, let's consider our words thoughtfully, strive to promote understanding with those who don't speak the language, and be brutally honest with ourselves before we choose the easy way of Christianese.

Speaking our hearts in plain English will stretch our theology, challenge our complacency, and help us to emulate the apostle Paul, translated by Eugene Peterson's The Message: "I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life."

Nicole Unice is a TCW regular contributor and a contributing editor for GiftedforLeadership.com and works in family and student ministry for Hope Church in Virginia. She is the author of She's Got Issues. www.nicoleunice.com

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Nicole Unice

Nicole Unice is a TCW regular contributor. Nicole is on the ministry staff of Hope Church and author of She's Got Issues. She writes for a variety of magazines and speaks nationwide at retreats and leadership events. Nicole and her husband Dave have three children. You can find her blogging about honest living at NicoleUnice.com.

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The Danger of Christianese