TOP 5 Christianese words, sayings, or phrases

My first experience with Christianese was the phrase “born again.” I must say, if you want others to view you as a religious fanatic, that’s your phrase. It was much later when I understood what this meant. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I first thought.

The urban dictionary defines Christianese as a “communicable language within the Christian subculture with words and phrases created, redefined, and/or patented that applies only to the Christian sphere of influence” (emphasis added). So, these things apply only to the Christian sphere. This language is unintelligible to those outside this realm.

I have had several recent conversations about the term “Israel.” Within Christian conversation, Israel can mean several different things. It can refer to Jacob, the Hebrew nation found in the Old Testament, a strip of land in the Middle East, or even a group of believers in Jesus.

Ironically I used “omniscient” in Monday’s post. I found this same term online amongst other Christianese of  omnipotent and omnipresent.

Here are my Top 5:

  1. Hedge of protection (This is solicited in prayer. God must be quite the landscaper. H/T to Drew Zuehlke)
  2. I’ll pray about it. (This typically means I will NOT pray about it or it’s a way to say “no!” without actually saying “no.” It works perfect in the Midwest.)
  3. Quiet time (I thought this was an adult version of a time-out, but with Jesus.)
  4. Hallelujah. Amen? Amen! Hallelujah. (Huh. What? What! Huh.)
  5. Pass the peace (This meant we were supposed to greet one another. For some reason I could never think of peace as anything but a football.)

QUESTIONS: What are your favorites? Or I guess, maybe, they’d be your least favorites?

You might also like these other “Top 5″ posts:


Posted on by Cor in FAITH

15 Responses to TOP 5 Christianese words, sayings, or phrases

  1. Tim Johnson

    Oh man. The one that always just GETS me is when people talk about being, “Biblical.” It’s not that I have any objection to the idea of allowing scripture to shape our thoughts and actions. Far from it.

    The problem is that oftentimes people use “Biblical” as a short hand for, “agrees with me.” It is, too often, an utterly self-referential term. Sort of like when people say, “liberal.” They mean, “anyone left of ME.”

  2. Adam Erwin

    Perhaps more “hipster Christianese”, I love it when I hear someone say, “Unpack that for me.”

    If I have my eyes closed and I hear that, the person asking me to unpack my sentence-long idea is a seminary student, holding a coffee mug in hand, wearing flip flops or Toms, with a bit of facial hair. The hipster Christian seminary student is the most likely candidate to use massive amounts of Christianese, so as to appear further along in their faith. Makes me laugh.

    I recognize that “unpack that” is also prevalent in the workplace from the hipster employee or boss. Either way, the term cannot escape Bethel mdiv roots.

    (Additional disclosure, I really like the term)

  3. Casey Nordman

    1. Pursue (In reference to relationships. Unless you’re stalking someone, please stop using this word.)

    2. Guard your heart (Mildly related to the first, but please stop taking this out of its context in Proverbs to mean protecting yourself from mean boys. I’ve heard this more times at women’s events than I’d like to count.)

    3. Secular (Only when it’s misused, which is often. I’ve heard references to “secular relationships,” which is the weirdest. For the record, “Secular TV,” refers to all TV, unless you actually watch taped church services on public access. Let’s find a different word for things you don’t enjoy or agree with.)

    4. Unequally yoked (Talk about something that means almost nothing to someone who hasn’t read this passage. Also, I’ve heard it in reference to friendships. Consider Jesus’ friends and get back to me.)

    5. You have to like Aaron Rodgers. He’s a believer. (I think every Christian Vikings fan has heard this from their lost Christian Packer fan friends. The implication is this: that I am free to dislike someone who is not a believer, but I’m compelled by Jesus to like believers. Nope. We’re called to love everyone, including our enemies. I still don’t like Aaron Rodgers.)

  4. David Pitchford

    I was thinking and journaling about this a few days ago. I define “Christianese” as a) Words or phrases that are used and thrown around in Christian culture as if they had very precise, technical, literal meanings, but whose meanings are actually broad, ill-defined, and vary from person to person. This fuzziness is often comfortable because it’s easy to hide behind. e.g. “Walk with God”, “pursue”, “call”, “doing life together”, “struggles”, “broken”, and, of course, “religion”. It’s unfortunate because some of these words represent important Biblical concepts that I worry we’re losing focus on.

    Or b) Words or phrases that are used in Christian culture to mean something only tangentially related (or not related at all) to their literal meaning, often by way of an allusion to a Bible verse. e.g. “Unequally yoked”, “born again”, “stumbling block”, “sprinkled”, and (sorry Steve) “garden glimpse”.

    Or like Tim said, c) Subtle ways to establish your “right-ness” over other Christians that are stolen from upright Christian discourse, like “biblical” or “Bible-believing”.

    Any of these things can make “Christianese” virtually impenetrable to non-Christians (and even to Christians). Although Cor, I would distinguish between Christianese (which I would say tends to be contemporary and endemic to Christian culture) and theological jargon like “omniscient”, which has been around a lot longer and is better-defined and understood outside Christianity.

  5. Alli

    I totally agree with Casey on the word, “secular”. I first became aware of the Christian subculture in high school after I started going to youth group. Secular sounded like a bad thing but I didn’t know what realms it applied to. Enter any Christian book store and not only can you find Christian music and Christian clothing – you can also find Testa-mints! Good thing our breath doesn’t have to smell like one of those secular mints!

    Another personal favorite – Tongues (shorthand for the phrase, “speaking in tongues”). Unless you’re taking an anatomy class and studying the mouth, the plural form of this word is just weird in about any context.

  6. Hiland Overgaard

    “Church planting”. When you use this term with someone who’s not a Christian, the blank stares are priceless.

  7. nziegler

    Tim Hawkins would agree with you on #1 – Hedge of Protection Video:

  8. Tia

    “Love on people”. Just think what that MIGHT mean to someone that doesn’t have a Christian background … my point exactly.

  9. Brittany Sprague

    1. “Jesus [or great theological book/great new christian revelation] is tearing me apart-in a good way.”

    2.”Living life on life”- so confusing outside if you’ve never heard this in the right context.

    Totally agree with the ‘speaking in tongues’

    4.Even “sin” is a term most people don’t understand..its common enough that people know its ‘bad stuff,’ but not along the lines of ‘outside of what Gods design.’

  10. Evan Leister

    I think the biggest problem with using Christianese, aside from the fact that it alienates any outsiders, is that these words and phrases have become so imprecise that they harm the people that use them. Phrases become bywords, catch-phrases to connect with a specific crowd of people that is ever growing more cloistered, having stopped practicing how to describe their God or their faith to anyone who doesn’t speak as they do while speaking a language that makes it less and less clear to them how they are actually worshipping or living for God.

    With that said, I’m going to shoot for some ones that seem sort of harmless but don’t really have much meaning.

    * Step out in faith
    * Being “intentional” (especially when it comes to relationships)
    * having a “heart for the lord”
    * “I echo that”
    * “What’s on your heart?”

  11. Joey

    Something I think we need to remember is that the phrases themselves are not always bad. I can talk about the shotgun formation all day long as long as I’m talking to another football fan. I can talk about ETFs as long as it’s with someone who’s into finance. And I can talk about “being in community” and “quiet time” as long as it’s with another Christian, preferably a Christian who is on the same page as me with my use of those terms.

    I cringe at a lot of “Christianese,” but I probably shouldn’t cringe as much as I do. Every subculture – music fans, technology geeks, etc. – has its own vernacular and there’s no reason the Christian subculture should or would be any different.

  12. Melanie

    So, here is a Christianese blooper for you. I made a mistake this week by telling a coworker that she was a “servant” because she was emptying our company’s dishwasher. She looked at me and told me that the conversation was over! Oops! Because of speaking in Christianese, I thought I was complimenting her, not offending her.

  13. Peter Watson

    There are many words are used as jargon. Even the using the word ‘gospel’ can be over used and meaningless.

Add a Comment