This weekend, I was reflecting on how offensive and irrelevant the language of the church can be…to those inside and outside its walls.
I know that I’m guilty of using a vast amount of Christianese. So, any thing I say here, I’m also saying to myself.
How many pastors have you encountered that talk about sanctification, justification, salvation, and other churchy terms in a manner that assumes that everyone listening knows exactly what they are talking about? If you use words only seminary graduates understand, you might want to define them. It’s not wrong to use them, but give an explanation…help bring others up to speed.
How many pastors do you know that just say, “turn to Philemon”, without giving people a clue that a) yes there is a book of Philemon in the Bible, and b) that it’s near the back? Too often, we just simply assume that if you are here, you must know how to find the books of the Bible.
Then, the one that tends to set me off the most is referring to those outside the church as being “lost”. Of course, I’m not sure that our other terms are much better (non-believers, non-Christians, un-churched, de-churched, and so on). But, when we say, “The lost are those who don’t know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior”, those who agree with us get it. But, what about those we are referring to?
Many of the “lost” don’t know that they are “lost”. They may ask, “Lost from what?” They might be offended by Christians saying, “Wow, you are lost”, when they feel like they have it all together.
It’s one thing for me to say “I once was lost, but now am found.” It’s a completely different thing when I say, “You are lost and need to be found.” And, of course, we take this idea of the “lost” to another level when we go ahead and fully determine who is lost. Many may say that if someone is gay, he/she is lost…if someone drinks, he/she is lost…if someone listens to “secular” (another churchy word) music, he/she is lost…if someone watches Curb Your Enthusiasm, he/she is lost.
To be honest, there are times when I’m surrounded by Christians that I couldn’t feel more lost…I have a great relationship with Jesus Christ…I am a pastor…but there are times, due to the way Christians sometimes talk and behave that I feel like I just don’t fit in…that I’m lost. Then, I wonder, how many other Christians feel lost in the church?
So, maybe we could get creative and find new ways to refer to people. And, maybe it’s just that…having the humility, compassion, grace, and love to see people as people…rather than categorize them as “lost” or “found”.