What's in this session?

  • What is Christianese? (0:35)
  • Bootstrapping, MVP, Ramen profitable (1:55)
  • #7. Narthex, lobby, foyer (4:20)
  • #6. Partake (7:00)
  • #5. Baby Christian (8:10)
  • #4. The Anthropomorphics (10:00)
  • #3. Love offering (11:35)
  • #2. Fellowship (13:15)
  • Honorable mention (16:20)
  • #1. Problematic Prepositions (20:10)

Show notes and resources

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The Transcript

Brady Shearer: Every subculture has its own set of insider language and jargon, and the Christian subculture is no exception. We lovingly call our insider language Christianese because we’re so self aware. In this podcast, we’re going to present to you our power rankings of the best, read worst, Christianese words and phrases.

Alex Mills: Well, hey there, and welcome to Pro Church Tools, the show to help you share the message of Jesus while we navigate the biggest communication shift in 500 years. I’m your host, Alex Mills, joined as always by Brady Shearer.

Brady Shearer: We’re doing our rankings of the best, AKA worst Christianese words and phrases. What is Christianese?

Alex Mills: It’s an official language.

Brady Shearer: It’s an official language created by the subculture of Christianity. It’s language that I have termed Bible adjacent.

Alex Mills: Nice.

Brady Shearer: So we’re not going to be discussing theological terms that perhaps you, Alex and I learned in Bible college. We’re not talking about sanctification, justification, baptism. Those words are in the Bible, are from the Bible. These are Bible adjacent, meaning they might resemble a biblical foundation, but we created them ourselves.

Alex Mills: And most people may be surprised that they’re not in the Bible, especially when we get to somewhere around number four. I think some people are going to be shocked like, “I’ve been praying that for years. That’s not biblical?” I was like, I mean it’s not un-biblical, but it’s-

Brady Shearer: It’s Bible adjacent. And the thing is every subculture has its own set of jargon. So this isn’t something that’s uniquely Christian. You don’t need to be ashamed. Maybe you do. You don’t need to feel bad about it though because every culture has this. We, at Pro Church Tools, are a startup company and startup culture has its own set of jargon that those that work in startups also make fun of. So here are a couple of startup terms to show you what it’s like to experience a startup-ese language as an outsider. Do you know all three of these?

Alex Mills: I don’t know the last one. I know those two.

Brady Shearer: Oh, perfect. Okay, great. So, bootstrapping. Alex, would you define that for us?

Alex Mills: Well that would be like you started the company without any exterior funding. You’re pulling your bootstraps up. You’re doing the work yourself.

Brady Shearer: Absolutely. It’s gritty. It’s grimy. It’s not super glamorous, but you’re making it happen. Our second startup culture startup-ese term, MVP. Does not mean most valuable player or most valuable pup. What does it mean?

Alex Mills: I’m second guessing myself. Does it mean market value projection?

Brady Shearer: No, it means minimal viable product, which is essentially if you’re creating something for the world, what is the absolute bare bones version that you can ship, that you can make available to the market to prove or disprove the idea that it will be something people want. A lot of people try to create this product that’s absolutely perfect before sending it out to the world and I don’t know, just get it out because you could work so hard to create something and then realize nobody wanted it.

Alex Mills: Yes. This third one I definitely don’t know.

Brady Shearer: It’s called-

Alex Mills: I was just going to say, I’m curious to hear what it means and how it’s relevant to anything that we do.

Brady Shearer: Okay. The term is ramen profitable.

Alex Mills: Like ramen, like the food?

Brady Shearer: Like the food. Now, ramen is notorious for being very affordable and ramen profitable here means getting the company to a place where you can cover the absolute bare bones of essentials for you and the founders. So you can eat, you can cover ranks, you can live. You’re not doing anything spectacular. You’re not investing into your 401(k). You’re not making millions. You’re not being a baller, but-

Alex Mills: You’re eating ramen.

Brady Shearer: … you can live. Your company’s ramen profitable, which is amazing because now you can live based off of this thing that you started from scratch.

Alex Mills: Right. So these are phrases that within the culture of startup community, we throw around all the time and you just know, like you speak that figurative language, right?

Brady Shearer: And you expect other people to just know what you mean when you say, “Oh yeah, we just passed ramen profitability.” And then you’re talking to a normal person, they’re like, “What? What was that first word you said? Did you say Roman? You’re roaming? What?”

Alex Mills: But we do this in church.

Brady Shearer: We do.

Alex Mills: We have our own insider lingo. We use it all the time as so many of us, I’ll put myself in that category, are just unaware. We do it subconsciously. We think everybody knows what we know and it’s just not true.

Brady Shearer: We’re going in reverse chronological order here, so number seven. We’ve got three different terms that describe the space in your church that is connected to your sanctuary. The place that you would-

Alex Mills: I wouldn’t say 3.5 terms because the third one is hotly contested, can be pronounced two different ways.

Brady Shearer: That’s a good point. That’s a good point. The narthex. Now I want to give a shout to Jeremy Poland in the church social media managers Facebook group that started a thread that kind of inspired this episode of Pro Church Tools. He said, “Hey, what’s your favorite Christianese?” And he’s like, “I’ll go first. The narthex.” At which point half of the people responded to his comment and said, “Oh yeah, that’s such a good one.”

Alex Mills: The other half of us were like, “A what?”

Brady Shearer: Now, maybe this is-

Alex Mills: Anthrax? Like what are you saying?

Brady Shearer: Napster? What?

Alex Mills: I don’t know what this means.

Brady Shearer: And maybe this is a regionally known term. Jeremy’s from Colorado for what it’s worth. So if you are in mountain time and you all know narthex, let us know. Narthex is just another term for your church’s lobby, foyer, or if you’re Canadian, foyer.

Alex Mills: I don’t know. So we looked up narthex because-

Brady Shearer: Right, because we wanted to know.

Alex Mills: … I didn’t know and apparently it’s this, like the Western entrance of old Western churches. So I don’t know how we adopted that and by we, I mean some of us adopted that. But yeah, I mean, we don’t really have a lobby or a foyer. We have a little … foyer or foyer. We have like a cafe that we call a living room because our church is Life Abundant, the living room.

Brady Shearer: Wow, so relevant.

Alex Mills: You guys call yours the lobby, right?

Brady Shearer: Well, we refer to it publicly as the big blue wall. Right? So if we’re saying, “You need to go to this place,” because the only time this Christianese becomes troublesome in this respect is when you’re speaking about it from the [la 00:06:19], from the stage. Whoa. [Lobby-an 00:06:22] slip. When you’re speaking about it from the stage and you’re referring to a place that people are not familiar with.

Alex Mills: Okay. So, you just basically outed me. We do that at our church. We call our cafe the living room.

Brady Shearer: You don’t call it the cafe?

Alex Mills: No, we call it the living room. Right? That’s an element of Christianese. We always direct people and tell them where it is. It’s the last door at the end of the hall.

Brady Shearer: And you probably say, “Go to the living room, which is what we also call our cafe.”

Alex Mills: No, we don’t.

Brady Shearer: Oh, well that’s good. That’s good then.

Alex Mills: No, we say, “Go to the living room. It’s the last room on the left at the end of the hall.” So we give them directions there. But that in itself is Christianese. It’s a name that we crafted for another thing that we crafted according to the name of our church.

Brady Shearer: Wow. Number six, partake. The word partake. It is defined, I looked up the definition of the word partake. It is defined as, “To eat or drink something.” So if we’re talking about partaking in communion, that is a very apt description of what we’re doing.

Alex Mills: But in what other context would you hear that word?

Brady Shearer: I would never say, “I’m about to partake in this Chick-fil-A sandwich.”

Alex Mills: I’ve got a good snack over in the kitchen. Hey Brady, would you like to come over and partake in this with me? It’s like, no. “Do you want a piece of this peach cobbler?”

Brady Shearer: Let’s partake. Now I looked up partake on Google and I found out that there’s actually a Canadian craft brewery called Partake Brewing, and then I looked into it more. The twist is that they serve only non-alcoholic beers. So, we don’t know the history of this company.

Alex Mills: I feel like it’s safe to assume-

Brady Shearer: Safe to assume that a Christian came up with this brewery.

Alex Mills: Yeah, so good.

Brady Shearer: Why? Because it’s called Partake Brewery and it’s crafting only non-alcoholic beers.

Alex Mills: I would venture to guess that whoever opened that brewery and named it is not a baby Christian.

Brady Shearer: Wow. Number five, baby Christian. I do not like, I dislike, no, I hate this term.

Alex Mills: This one is Bible adjacent because I think, I hope that it comes from, it’s founded in the philosophy that-

Brady Shearer: This is all Paul’s fault.

Alex Mills: … you know babies, they drink the milk, but when you grow up you get the solid food, the word solid food, this and that. So we’re like, yeah, “Baby Christians, they’re still on that milk. We need to get them onto solid food.”

Brady Shearer: Unless you’re an up and coming rapper, Da Baby, Lil Baby, referring to anyone as a baby anything is condescending. Imagine someone comes to your church and you’ve been invested in their life for a long time and they’re not a Christian. They come to your church and they’re like, “Wow, this is real. There’s so much that Christ can do in my life. I want to walk with him. Thank you for bringing me here.” And you’re like, “You know what? You are an infant. You’re fresh out of the womb, ready to cut the cord.”

Alex Mills: We’re going to cut the cord.

Brady Shearer: It’s wrong. That’s wrong.

Alex Mills: It’s not good.

Brady Shearer: That’s disgusting.

Alex Mills: It’s not good.

Brady Shearer: You’re perpetuating this when you call someone a baby Christian. Now, you probably would never call an actual baby Christian to their face as a baby Christian.

Alex Mills: That’s the worst part. You do it behind their back.

Brady Shearer: So if anyone has ever heard you say it, they’re like, “That’s what they call people that are new to the faith?”

Alex Mills: “Are they talking about me?”

Brady Shearer: Baby Christian? Oh, my gosh.

Alex Mills: Yeah. I’m going to pass on that. I’m going to say some of these it’s okay to keep. That one’s got to go.

Brady Shearer: Yeah, like partake is fine.

Alex Mills: Yeah, but we’ve got to put the baby Christian down.

Brady Shearer: Let’s put number four to … Oh wow. Put the baby Christian down.

Alex Mills: Sorry, that one didn’t come out.

Brady Shearer: Wow. Wow.

Alex Mills: Down. No, down in the basket, into the river.

Brady Shearer: Wow. Oh, okay.

Alex Mills: That’s what I … You just didn’t give me a chance to finish.

Brady Shearer: All right. Number four, the anthropomorphics, traveling mercies in a hedge of protection.

Alex Mills: My grandmother would just be shocked to learn that all these prayers for traveling mercies don’t actually have a scriptural foundation.

Brady Shearer: Is it only me? The reason I labeled these the anthropomorphics is because I always imagine these mercies getting in a car.

Alex Mills: Yeah, the hedge of protection is the best because if you try and visualize it, it’s like, “Okay, is it a green hedge? Is it a bush?”

Brady Shearer: It’s the Homer Simpson hedge that he leans back into.

Alex Mills: And is it made out of some sort of like impassible vegetation, right?

Brady Shearer: When I think of a hedge, it’s really easy to get through.

Alex Mills: Yeah. You just get through that or over it or around it or under it. Or is it a hedge of warrior angels that are standing like linked arms around you? Because if that’s what it is, I can get on board for that.

Brady Shearer: That’s kind of cool. That’s kind of cool. I always thought of it like-

Alex Mills: But when I visualize it, it’s mostly a hedge.

Brady Shearer: Yeah. I always think of the big clippers and you’re like, you know you got the shrubs and your-

Alex Mills: Yeah, Gabriel is just tending the hedge while you’re inside, just so free.

Brady Shearer: “You are protected, good sir.” It’s like, okay. I’m not confident here.

Alex Mills: Good prayers to pray. Right? Traveling mercies, if you’re on a trip, like just, “Lord, keep them safe.” If you’re traveling mercies-

Brady Shearer: Well that’s an interesting … Now why wouldn’t we just say, “Lord, keep them safe”? Why is that not good enough?

Alex Mills: I don’t know. You’ve got to throw the-

Brady Shearer: Just a hedge of traveling mercy protections. Just protect the mercies. Also the mercies protecting them. Number three, this term is particularly upsetting because it was created for a reason that’s also upsetting. The term is a love offering. It’s the intersection between church budgetary issues and insider language. We invented the term because we literally couldn’t pay a pastor or a preacher. We’re like, “Okay, how do we get this preacher to come and work for free for us, but not say that he’s coming or she’s coming to work for free for us?” Eureka.

Alex Mills: Right, in the name of love. What are you going to say to that? And you know what happens with a love offering, is it usually get snuck in after a real offering. So you know you’ve been to a conference where it’s worship, a preacher comes out, preaches for 10 minutes on offering, takes an offering, you finish worship, you sing the offering song. The main speaker comes up and then at the end another cat comes up and says, “We’d just love to take a love offering.”

Brady Shearer: You would love to take that love offering.

Alex Mills: And so it’s usually a supplemental offering.

Brady Shearer: It’s a double dip.

Alex Mills: Yes. It really is.

Brady Shearer: You dipped the chip and you dipped again. And I know you want your chip with the dip. We all do. Now the best is then after that, “We’d like to invite our sponsor to the stage, Compassion International.” Come on. This is a $400 conference.

Alex Mills: That guy from 10th Avenue North comes out. Like, “Who paid him to be here?” It’s like, “Well we did. That’s why we had to take up the love offering to get the speaker.”

Brady Shearer: “We’re thrilled to have Sanctus Real with us tonight. If they could come up to the stage and share their heart.”

Alex Mills: A love offering.

Brady Shearer: Share their love. Number two, fellowship. It’s kind of the staple that you probably expected to hear on this.

Alex Mills: Our living room was called the fellowship room. And so our church was called Life Abundant Fellowship.

Brady Shearer: Every church is some type of fellowship church.

Alex Mills: Yes. So when we renamed our church, we dropped fellowship, we kept Life Abundant and we swapped out fellowship for Niagara, kind of a statement of where we are and who we are and who we’re serving. But yeah, fellowship was one of those words that had just been with us for like 30 years and we kind of did a bit of soul searching. It’s like, “Oh, this word doesn’t mean anything to anyone else outside of these four walls. Let’s use something that’s not Christianese.”

Brady Shearer: And if you’re not JRR Tolkien, you’re probably not using this term anywhere else. But I want to take a moment to defend the word fellowship, because it was the number one response on that Facebook thread that Jeremy started and I’ve seen it everywhere. I was doing some research on Christianese. I don’t want to miss anything, you know? And it was on every single list. But I will say that there are not that many great alternatives. The simple alternative is just talk about hanging out, but that’s not really a label. That’s kind of a verb. And so to replace fellowship, which is a noun, with hanging out, which is a verb, those don’t directly substitute. You can say community, but that has-

Alex Mills: That’s a buzzword.

Brady Shearer: … just as many, yeah, like Christianese buzzword connotations to it. And sometimes there are just these words that don’t have a good explanation. I was listening to a book yesterday and it was talking about the importance, it was a book on being a man, and it was talking about the importance of spending time with other men, and it inspired me to give you a phone call.

Alex Mills: It sure did.

Brady Shearer: But it described these fellowships between two men as man dates.

Alex Mills: Yeah, that’s a nope.

Brady Shearer: And this is a secular book. It had a curse word in the title, as pretty much all self-development books nowadays do.

Alex Mills: You’ve got to stop the scroll.

Brady Shearer: Absolutely. And I heard it and I could hear the author, who was reading his own book, kind of cringe in his own phrasing. He’s like, “I love to have man dates.” You could just hear him in his head going, “Oh Lord.”

Alex Mills: Yeah, why’d I do this?

Brady Shearer: Because there’s just no good substitution for that. So in that respect, fellowship, you’ve been getting too bad of a rap.

Alex Mills: And unlike man dates … Wow, it doesn’t-

Brady Shearer: It makes us not want to hang out with each other now.

Alex Mills: It doesn’t feel any better when you actually choose to say it.

Brady Shearer: The guy was talking about being on a motorcycle. And he’s like, “I was on this man date on my bike.” And I was like, “These don’t seem … They don’t” …

Alex Mills: So different from that word, fellowship actually I feel like has meaning in the church community. It is a very good description of who we are and the way …

Brady Shearer: It’s not just hanging out. It’s something so much deeper.

Alex Mills: It’s like sharing life, you know? It’s like that act of sharing the things we have, whether it’s homes or money or food or whatever. That’s the stuff we do as a church. And I really do think that fellowship is one of the best ways to describe it. Now when you’re naming churches after it or rooms after it or ministries after it, that’s where it might get a little sticky. But using it in your vernacular of describing who you are and what you do, I think it actually is a great word.

Brady Shearer: Before we get to number one, which is by far the worst, before we get to number one, I want to give an honorable mention to the phrase fire tunnel because I found no way to put it into this list.

Alex Mills: And I think it does only, it applies to both of us.

Brady Shearer: It’s really only a charismatic-

Alex Mills: Because we grew up in very similar traditions. But for those of you who don’t know, who didn’t grow up in charismatic traditions like me and Brady, a fire tunnel is the culminating moment of either a worship night or a conference weekend. It’s that moment after Heidi Baker preaches and everyone just needs to get prayed for, like everybody needs to get … and they’re like, “I’m all for laying on of hands,” and everybody just needs to get there. So what will happen is Heidi will say, “Okay, let’s get this fire tunnel going.” And either the leaders of that church, the leaders of the conference, they’ll come up to the front and line up in, and basically create a tunnel. So like two single file lines facing each other. And then everybody in that service, like whether it’s a small service of 100 people or I have been in conference services, 500 people just lining up and it’s those ones where you don’t really get a lot of time to be in the tunnel. It’s just like they’re herding you through like cattle. Everyone lines up single file and you walk through the fire tunnel.

Now, depending on what time of the evening it is, depends on how much time you get in the fire tunnel, but the leaders will lay their hands on you and pray for you. So you get touched by all of these leaders as you’re walking through. You get word sometimes.

Brady Shearer: Moist.

Alex Mills: Yeah, sometimes you’ll get prophetic words in there. It can be a wild ride.

Brady Shearer: Now, question. Practically speaking, when you are constructing the fire tunnel, so if you’re on the other side and I’m here, are your hands up like and we’re grabbing hands. So we’re creating a tunnel. Grab my hands. Make the tunnel. We made the tunnel.

Alex Mills: Unfortunately I’ve seen ones like this.

Brady Shearer: People go under the tunnel.

Alex Mills: I don’t prefer those kinds. I prefer the kind where you and I are facing each other and as the people walk through-

Brady Shearer: That’s not a tunnel.

Alex Mills: … we gently lay our hands on them.

Brady Shearer: That’s not a tunnel.

Alex Mills: And pray for them.

Brady Shearer: That’s not a tunnel. It’s a fire runway.

Alex Mills: It’s an open air tunnel.

Brady Shearer: That’s not a thing. You just got described the road. You just described a street, an open air tunnel.

Alex Mills: The fire street, fire highway, fire freeway.

Brady Shearer: Fire-way.

Alex Mills: The freeway, the free fire-way.

Brady Shearer: The fire tunnel I remember the most, and Jonas will remember this almost certainly, is when Jonas and I, me in 10th grade, him in 12th grade I believe. We were on a mission trip in Mexico, Monterey on the side of a mountain. Me, a newly joined Pentecostal.

Alex Mills: You were a baby Christian.

Brady Shearer: I was a baby Pentecostal at least because I had grown up in a very reserved Baptist reformed worldview. And they’re like, “We’re going to do a fire tunnel,” and this was like an international fire tunnel. Literally baptism by fire people.

Alex Mills: Yeah, you know there’s stuff about to go down.

Brady Shearer: Side note though, my wife was also on this mission trip and we did the fire tunnel where you put your hands up.

Alex Mills: Oh nice. She wasn’t your wife yet.

Brady Shearer: She wasn’t. We weren’t even dating. So, we were holding hands and I was like, “Wow, this Christianity thing is amazing. I loved being a baby Christian. Fire tunnel, oh man, this is a … Oh, the fresh anointing, okay.” It wasn’t anointing.

Alex Mills: The plot twist is when somebody goes down in the fire tunnel.

Brady Shearer: Like slain in the spirit?

Alex Mills: Yeah, somebody gets gets knocked-

Brady Shearer: You’re blocking the way.

Alex Mills: Somebody gets knocked down by the spirit, so now they’re on the ground. So you have a choice.

Brady Shearer: That’s the number one rule of a tunnel. No stopping in the tunnel.

Alex Mills: There’s three options. Either you step over them, you try and navigate around them or a hero comes in and drags them out of the fire freeway.

Brady Shearer: Covers them in a modesty cloth.

Alex Mills: And puts a modesty cloth on them.

Brady Shearer: And then begins the drag. All right.

Alex Mills: Here we go. This is it.

Brady Shearer: Number one. What we’re calling the problematic prepositions, because there are a number, to love on, to come around, to pour into-

Alex Mills: My least favorite.

Brady Shearer: … to pour out, to press in. The problematic prepositions. Why? Because they don’t mean anything.

Alex Mills: I was going to say why, because what do they mean?

Brady Shearer: And if they mean anything, they’re making you can go, “Does that mean what I think it does? Why are they coming around and pouring into? Why are they loving on this?” Non-Christians are like, “Why are they loving on others? What does that mean?”

Alex Mills: We’re just going to love on each other and …

Brady Shearer: I know they don’t have sex before marriage. Is that what they’re loving on? Is that like a different thing? I don’t know.

Alex Mills: If you want to come up after the service, we can just pour into you.

Brady Shearer: I’m going to come around and pour into you.

Alex Mills: All the baby Christians, just come on up.

Brady Shearer: Baby Christians, after you’ve given of your love offering, partaken in the community, if you could just come forward. We’re going to love on, pour into, come around, come in, after you press in, then we can come around and … It’s just not good.

Alex Mills: And where did they come from? When did these begin?

Brady Shearer: That’s a great point. These are an evolution. They started small and it became something much bigger and terrible than we could’ve ever foreseen.

Alex Mills: Here we are.

Brady Shearer: And we all partake in them.

Alex Mills: I think we owe it first of all to ourselves, but probably more importantly to the baby Christians in our communities, to the first comers in our communities to be a little more thoughtful and intentional with the language that we’re using. Not that any of this stuff is extremely harmful or anything.

Brady Shearer: Well, problematic.

Alex Mills: Problematic. Some of these prepositions are a little problematic, you may say. But yeah, I think we owe it maybe even just to our faith tradition to be a little more thoughtful with the language we’re using. There is a wealth of language in the scriptures if you want to find them and words that are worthy of using, I think that would not fall into the Christianese category, but maybe it’s time that some of these, we archive them.

Brady Shearer: So I was just trying to make an episode that was entertaining. You’re trying to make it all like now there’s this big point at the end. Well, respect, pastor.

Alex Mills: I try my best.

Brady Shearer: We expect nothing less. What Christianese words or phrases did we miss and what are you not ready to give up? What Christianese phrase do you stand for? Let us know in the YouTube comments or shoot us an email, hello@prochurchtools.com. And that’ll do it for this episode. We’ll see you next time.

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