Over the weekend, Twitter caught “on fire” with a “missional movement” from a bunch of “Kingdom-minded” folks “doing life together” with a “heart for transparency.”
I’m talking about #meaninglesschurchjargon.
Writer Nadia Bolz-Weber of Sarcastic Lutheran asked her Twitter followers Saturday for their favorite church jargon, and the response was huge.
Hundreds of people jumped in with tweets of church jargon they’ve heard or used before, such things like asking God for a “hedge of protection” to saying “I just don’t feel peace about it” or “God has laid it on my heart” to justify things we want or don’t want to do.
Bolz-Weber summed up the responses of #meaninglesschurchjargon aptly on her blog into four main types and offered ideas to help leave them behind. (You can also still search the hashtag on Twitter to see the bulk of replies, many of them are insightful.) Here’s a few:
Some of them were phrases I haven’t heard in years, and they brought back memories of when I spoke that language. At first I was laughing and groaning and pointing fingers at the ridiculous ways church people talk. But as I thought about it, I realized that I’m not above church jargon myself (I might even be guilty of labeling an event as a “God Thing” depending on the crowd). The only reason I don’t use the jargon all the time is because I’m not in a church circle right now. As soon as I start talking about God, I revert right back to the cliche-spewing girl I used to be. Meaningless church jargon is my native tongue.
It’s the only language I learned to speak of my faith, and stripping myself of it and starting all over has proven to me that I’m spiritually illiterate without relying on the images, analogies and paraphrased out-of-context scriptures that were passed down to me by others.
It’s like I’m a baby again, learning to talk.
Most meaningless church jargon isn’t inherently bad, and at one point, it probably held a lot of meaning. But as Nadia put it, “the farther the language is from the actual feelings and events and people it was created to describe, the less actual meaning it has.”
So how can we talk about God and our faiths without using trite hand-me-down cliches?
Simplify our talk.
There’s no need to impress people with fancy religious words or poetic language to describe how I see God at work in my life. If I’m a baby, relearning to talk, then maybe it’s OK to use simple, straightforward language, much like a baby would.
Instead of saying “I have a heart for children,” just say, “I love children.”
Instead of asking God for a hedge of protection, just ask that he would protect you.
Don’t say you’ll “be praying” for someone if what you really mean is you want to be done talking about their problems.
Don’t tell someone that God laid it on your heart to tell them this or that, just say “I want to tell you something.”
Instead of hiding behind churchy phrases, can we just say what we mean in simple, understated language? Can we let God move between our words and in the unspoken? Instead of packaging him up in pat bumper sticker phrases, can we let him exist in all his mystery and grandness and unspeakable goodness? Can we let the gospel shine in both its simplicity and complexity? Can we think about who God is to us, and be open to the possibility that it may not fit the same exact language as all the other people at church?
Or, we can call this whole chat a God Thing and then go grab a donut.
What meaningless church jargon bothers you the most?