How Christianity Sounds to Someone Not Initiated in “Christianese” 

justificationHave you ever wondered how Christianity sounds to people not initiated in “Christianese” — the special language Christians use to talk to one another about their faith? Evangelicals, in particular, have a complex vocabulary of words that only they use. When people unfamiliar with Evangelical Christianity hear or read these words they often scratch their heads and say, huh? As my wife and I travel the rural roads of Northwest Ohio, we come across church signs with all sorts of silly, stupid clichés. If the goal is to convey a certain message to unbelieving passersby, churches are miserably failing. Instead of using words that are easily understood by everyone, Evangelicals use code words or buzz words to get their message out. Christians will understand what they mean, but unbelievers won’t. Perhaps the real purpose of church signs is to say to Christian passersby, Hey, we are on your team! Praise Jesus!

The Dictionary of Christianese website has a list of jargon and clichés used by Christians to converse with one another. I have reproduced some of their list below, along with other words that came to mind as I was writing this post.

  • 10/40 Window
  • A going church for a coming savior
  • Agape love
  • Anointed
  • Apostate
  • Armor-bearer
  • Ask Jesus into your heart
  • At home with the Lord
  • Baby Christian
  • Backslider
  • Baptized with the Spirit
  • Bible belt
  • Body of Christ
  • Born again
  • But for the grace of God, there go I
  • Calminian
  • Carpet time
  • Cheap grace
  • Child of God
  • Child of Satan
  • Christianity is a relationship, not a religion
  • Covet prayers
  • Divine appointment
  • Drive-by evangelism
  • Evangelistically speaking
  • Everything happens for a reason
  • Family of God
  • Feel God’s presence
  • Filled with the Holy Ghost
  • Fire insurance
  • Food, fun, and fellowship
  • Friendliest church in town
  • Friendship evangelism
  • Frozen chosen
  • Give your life to Jesus
  • God is a perfect gentleman
  • God is good all the time
  • God is in our midst
  • God is my co-pilot
  • God never gives us more than we can handle
  • Godly Woman/Man
  • God’s in this place
  • Going out into the highways and hedges
  • Have you been in the Word
  • Have you talked to Jesus today
  • Heart for God
  • Hedge of protection
  • I see that hand
  • Is God speaking to your heart
  • Jesus is coming again
  • Jesus junk
  • Jesus loves you
  • Justified/Justification
  • Keep Christ in Christmas
  • Lie from the pit of Hell
  • Life verse
  • Living by faith
  • Lord willing
  • Lost
  • Love the sinner, hate the sin
  • Lukewarm Christian
  • Missional
  • Missionary Kid
  • Name it, claim it
  • New life in Christ
  • Not inspired version (NIV)
  • On fire Christian
  • Only one life, t’will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last
  • Praise report
  • Prayed up
  • Prayer breakfast
  • Preacher boy
  • Proverbs 31 woman
  • Put on the armor of God
  • Putting out a fleece
  • Reaching the lost
  • Redeemed by the blood
  • Redeem the time
  • Redeemed
  • Red-letter Christian
  • Reprobate
  • Saved by the blood
  • Sanctified
  • Sawdust trail
  • Saved
  • Sinner’s prayer
  • Smoking hot wife
  • Soulwinning
  • Speak the truth in love
  • Spirit led
  • Spiritual birthday
  • Spiritual warfare
  • Sword drill
  • Thank you for the blood
  • The blood, the book, and the blessed hope
  • The Holy Spirit is moving
  • The Lord has placed it on my heart
  • There’s power in the blood of the lamb
  • This is between you and God
  • Transformed life
  • Traveling mercies
  • TULIP (the five points of Calvinism)
  • Turned over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh
  • Under the blood
  • Unspoken prayer request
  • Walk with the Lord
  • Washed in/by the blood
  • Which dog are you feeding
  • Word from the Lord
  • Worldling
  • WWJD
  • You take the first step and God will help you take the rest

there's power in the blood of jesus

I could add more words, but I thought I would let readers add their own words in the comment section. What Christian jargon and clichés should be added to this list?

I frequently use Christianese in my writing because I know it is an effective way to communicate with doubting Evangelicals. When terms such as the ones above are used, those of us who used to be Evangelicals know exactly what someone is trying to say. Unbelievers, on the other hand, don’t understand these words. Bought by the blood? Who is blood, and who or what did he buy? Washed in the blood? Eww, gross. Justified? Left, center, right, or full? Do you believe in TULIP? What color? the Holy Spirit is moving! Was he constipated? Name it, claim it! Cool, BMW, please with a smoking hot wife!

Your turn.

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19 Comments

  1. Susannah Anderson

    “Pre-mill, post-mill, a-mill.” “Believer’s baptism.” Backslidden. And this is an old one: do they still use it: “Under conviction”?

    Reply
  2. Susannah Anderson

    And the 4 Spiritual Laws. Try those out on someone from a Buddhist or Hindu background!

    Reply
  3. Scott

    Election. Predestination. Synagogue of Satan. The one true church. Infra suprlapsarian. Sin. Harlot of Babylon. The Lords Supper. Eucharist. Fellowship. Act of God……..
    Charismaniac
    Pentecostal pressure cooker.

    Reply
  4. Tammy

    One of my personal favorites: pray through. Whenever someone said that, I always thought of the person as calling God on the phone, and his line was always busy. Also, someone or something has been a blessing, or God placed a burden on my heart. And I will never forget an old preachers wife who always prefaced her testimonies with “the devil tried to make me” think this or do that. She always added extra emphasis on the word “devil” when she said it.

    When I look back on it all, it just seems so crazy to me. I’m glad I finally listened to my “small, still voice” which I now know is simply my own logic and reasoning.

    Reply
    1. Susannah Anderson

      ‘way back when, during a worrisome period, I asked my artistic teen daughter to make me a poster, with the text, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” I didn’t look at it until it was finished; it read, “… is the devil thereof.”

      Too much “devil” talk in church every Sunday!

      The poster did the trick, though; I couldn’t see it without laughing.

      Reply
  5. ObstacleChick

    I love this post. It brings back a lot of memories and makes me chuckle.

    Here were a few more that I recall.

    Atonement – reconciliation of God with humans through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ
    Prayer warrior – one who consistently and fervently prays for others, particularly with regard to special requests. (I can’t tell you how many social media posts I see from evangelicals calling out to prayer warriors to pray for them before a job interview, for an illness, etc.)
    Warrior for Christ – self-explanatory, particularly appealing to boys/men
    Worldly/Living in the world but not of the world – worldly refers to all things not approved by TrueChristians.
    Heart for (fill in the blank) – Bruce already mentioned heart for Christ/God/Jesus, but it can also refer to missions, the homeless, witnessing, or a variety of other things in which someone is interested but needs a Jesus-seal-of-approval for pursuing – like extra credit points
    Called – one feels as if God wants them to do a particular thing, such as being called to the ministry, called to missions, called to witness to a particular person…..it’s whatever a person wants to do but needs supernatural justification for doing so – also extra credit points
    Rapture – when all the TrueBelievers are physically taken up to heaven. Could be pre-millennial or post-millennial depending on one’s doctrine
    Tribulation – period of great suffering around which time the Second Coming of Jesus will occur – see above on the millennial and rapture references
    Second Coming of Jesus – yeah, he’s totally coming back for TrueBelievers
    Day of Judgment – judgment by God after one’s death. Some also refer to it as happening during someone’s life if one is living particularly heinously.
    Bought with a price – refers to Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice
    Living for the flesh vs. living for the Lord – self-explanatory
    Altar call – that time at the end of evangelical worship service where everyone sings an appropriate song like “Just As I Am” and those who feel “called” can go forward to “make their profession of faith” or “rededicate themselves to Christ”. There’s often a point where the pastor will instruct all to bow their heads and close their eyes for the more shy members who want to walk down front without everyone staring at them.
    Profession of Faith – another way to say “accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior”, or “getting saved”
    Testimony – individual’s statement of their life before and after salvation. synonym – witness
    Witness – noun – one’s testimony or statement of faith; verb – to evangelize to a lost person
    Brother/Sister – some churches use it to refer to members, as in, Brother Bill and Sister Sue. In our church, older members often used it to refer to those in church leadership (but they were all Brother So-and-So because, you know, women can’t be in a role of leadership). So the pastor was Brother Bob or, if he preferred, Brother Jones, while deacons were Brother John, Brother Ray, etc.

    That’s all I can remember for now. I know there’s more……

    Reply
  6. Neil

    My favorite is ‘Say it in love’ (Steve Van Nattan uses a variation in his rant that Bruce has posted below). Translated it means, ‘I’m gonna say something offensive/ personal/racist/homophobic/idiotic but because I’m feigning good intentions you should let me get away with it.’

    Reply
    1. Laine

      Haha! This brings back memories. When we were in trouble for saying homosexuality wasn’t a sin, we were “told in love” that we could no longer teach (kids especially) or hold any positions of authority in the church. When we tried to explain that we thought we should err on the side of love when it came to homosexuals, that is, love them and accept them, we were told we could NOT do that. Funny how doing or saying something “in love” works only for being mean and not for actually loving somebody!

      Reply
  7. Laine Noe

    Kingdom work — any work done in/for the church (Vacation Bible School; Fall Festival; Being on a committee)
    Satan coming into the church — heard this one a lot after we said we believed homosexuality wasn’t a sin!
    Church on Fire — A church fully washed in the holy spirit
    Unchurched — As in, “youth, invite your unchurched friends to our youth social activity”
    Jesus Take the Wheel — I’m having a hard time dealing with this and I need Jesus to take over!
    Jesus! – Although I was always taught that this was a swear/taking God’s name in vain, I heard church people use it all the time. They did not, however, add the “H. Christ!”

    And these call and response ones were always cringeworthy:

    Pastor: And all God’s people said…
    Congregation: Amen!
    Pastor: God is good all the time
    Congregation: And all the time God is good
    Pastor or Congregant on Easter Sunday: He is Risen!
    Whoever is in earshot: He is Risen Indeed!

    Reply
  8. Matilda

    ‘Under the blood’ always gave me weird images in my mind!
    One of the last church services I attended 3 yrs ago, was an anglican christening with a large group of non-church family and friends present. We sang a hymn with the line ‘Con-substantial, Co-eternal’ in it. My poor Sunday School kids were supposed to find that relevant, the vicar refused to let me take them out for their class till it she’d done the incomprehensible baby sprinkling bit with lots more archaic language of the liturgy …then wondered why it was so hard to get families to come regularly. I’ve never been so close to sitting down and banging my head on the pew in front!!!!

    Reply
  9. Steve

    WTF?? How did you miss “speaking in tongues???”

    ??

    Reply
    1. Susannah Anderson

      In his corner, they didn’t do that. 😀
      Also, “slain in the Spirit” and “holy laughter”. And the “gifts”; discernment, tongues, interpretation, prophecy, etc. And “laying on of hands”. (They did this to the Orange Menace; not that it changed anything.)

      Reply
  10. Troy

    My upbringing in the church was liberal protestant, so for the most part I recognize some of your fundie terms as a “cant”. I do recall that the music director would say “Gawd” (or something similar possibly “Gode”, it was a long time ago) rather than God. This wasn’t done church wide, but it always struck me as a bit odd. The difference was subtle but noticeable.
    [I do recall someone asked her about it and she pretty much confirmed the obvious, it was reverential in nature, not taking the Lord’s name in vain]

    Reply
  11. oldbroad1

    Speaking truth to power. What the hell does that mean?

    Reply
    1. anotherami

      You can blame the Quakers for that one! I grew up as a Friend (Quaker) and one of the first explanations ever told to me is still my favorite. “‘Speak truth to power’ means be the little boy who dares tell the Emperor he’s naked.”

      Reply
  12. kittybrat

    Your post and these comments are bringing back so much absurdity!
    So, I’m adding…
    Stumbling Block. As in, we must keep a pure testimony so as not to be a stumbling block on the road to someone else’s salvation!
    Once at school, at chapel during “spiritual emphasis week”, our coach prayed out loud to strike each of us dead who were not fully living for the Lord. “Dear God, please strike these players and students dead if they in anyway are impeding someone’s way to Christ, Dear Lord…”
    PUKE!

    Reply
    1. ObstacleChick

      Oh my, strike them dead? Don’t even give them a chance to reform, just zap them? Pretty harsh…..

      Reply
  13. Michael Mock

    My wife has a lovely story about being taken off to some sort of weekend Christian Bible Camp by a college friend (erm, acquaintance?). Apparently they went in for the hard sell, so she wound up sitting in a tiny little room with these two girls – neither of whom was her, um, friend.

    Then one of the girls leans forward and asks, “Have you been washed in the Blood of the Lamb?”

    And my wife, naturally, thinks: Oh God, they’re going to kill me and bury my corpse in the woods.

    Reply
    1. Annie

      I laughed so hard at your comment. I would have thought the same thing as your wife. Christians are nuts.

      Reply

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