Being a pastor, a large part of my job is hospital and doctor’s office visitation. I’ve learned one thing in my years and that is the medical field has their own language. They might be speaking English, but it’s a whole lot different that what I learned growing up in the South. Let’s look at how crazy these terms can get.
A nephrologist is not a person who studies ancient Egyptian gods. It is a kidney doctor. A stethoscope sounds more like a tool to find dinosaurs than a tool to help you listen to the heart and lungs. Cyanosis is not how you say goodbye in Japanese. It means bluish skin. Cephalgia is not the stuff that grows on ponds. It a head ache, and the medical profession is the only place I know where “positive” means bad and “negative” means good.
How many of us have been in a doctors office, listened to a long explanation by a doctor, and had to ask, “can you explain that again, but in a way where I can understand what in the world you are talking about?” I can’t be the only one that wonders why they don’t just say: kidney doctor, the listener, blue skin, and head ache.
Well, let me let you in on a little secret. We in the church speak our own language. Let’s call it churchlish. We use weird words. We have simple terms with loaded meanings, and we even have Greek and Hebrew words that have become English words with sometimes different meanings from the word’s heritage.
Amen is a Greek word that means truly or verily, but we don’t end prayers with truly. Hallelujah is Hebrew for Praise God’s divine name or Praise the LORD. Gospel is Greek meaning good news. Just like doctors, why don’t we say: truly, praise the Lord, and good news? Throw on top that words like “saved,” “lost,” “sinner,” “saint,” “baptize,” and on and on that seem simple, but have much larger and more pregnant meanings in the church than in Websters. The cherry on top are words like justification, sanctification, perfection, and glorification whose definitions the church herself have fought over for centuries.
Just as we can get lost in the lingo at the doctors office, it is easy for guests in our churches or people we share about our faith to get lost in our churchy language.
I’m not saying the above words or bad. They are great words with a rich history, but I just want us to be careful when we use them that we don’t lose others.
Paul says in 1 Corintians 9
19 Although I am a free man and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to wins more people. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law — though I myself am not under the lawt — to win those under the law 21 To those who are without that law, like one without the law — not being without God’s law but within Christ’s law — to win those without the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some.
That’s a fancy way of Paul saying I figure out how to share the good news with who I am sharing the good news of God to. I make sure the person or group “gets it.”
Let’s take a lesson from Paul and not just share our faith with others, but share our faith in a way the listener can understand us. Beware of churchlish. It not just what you say, it is how you say it.
Be thoughtful and share the good news where people outside the church can understand. If we keep speaking our own language without concern of others understanding, the church will become an exclusive language club instead of a powerful life changing message of hope for all.
Amen…I mean truly.