Last night, I was having a conversation with my neighbor, and all of a sudden, I panicked.
I couldn’t understand him, and I didn’t have the guts to tell him that he wasn’t making any sense. I politely smiled and pretended I was following him, but I was lost and wanted to wrap up things without me looking stupid. The problem was, we were speaking Spanish; and he didn’t realize it, but he was talking over my head.
I am conversationally fluent in Spanish; but sometimes when I’m in a conversation with a Spanish speaker, the other person brings up a topic with which I’m not familiar (for example, car repairs). They start using vocabulary words I haven’t learned, and as I slip further behind and get more confused, I do my best to look engaged and hope that they don’t figure out I’m confused or ask any questions. They usually just keep talking.
I think Christians do this sort of thing all the time when we talk about our faith.
Speaking Fluent Christianese
We speak to other people in Christianese and presume we’re making headway in the conversation just because they’re nodding and smiling as we talk. All the while, they’re feeling left behind as we discuss our faith and use insider phrases like “fellowship,” “the Gospel,” “feeling led,” “got a peace about it,” “feeling convicted,” and “getting plugged into a small group,” to name a few.
The thing is, people want to connect; they want to build friendships; they want to get to know us – but they do not want to feel excluded, confused, or left behind. And if they do feel excluded, confused, or left behind in conversation because we’re using too much Christianese, they will either pretend to understand and/or find a way to avoid having future conversations.
So in the future, when we’re talking with people who aren’t Christians, it might be best for us to clean up our language and use a little creativity when we speak, rather than falling back on Christian catchphrases. Like, how hard would it be to say that we “meet with a support group from church,” instead of saying we “got plugged into a small group”? Or how about saying that we felt like God was “trying to teach us something,” rather than saying, “I felt convicted”?
This isn’t about coming up with a legalistic way to talk to people who aren’t Christians – this is about being considerate; it’s about doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. This is about asking ourselves whether we want to talk at people about our faith or have a real conversation with people.