Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Church Talk

It was inevitable, no matter how much I tried to stop it.

I started journaling along with a daily devotional that I swiped from our church’s public supply, not even bothering to put a donation in the box for the first couple of booklets.  I was such a creeping Christian then.

Every morning I’d read, then write a one-pager about my thoughts on the daily scripture, a sort of personal devotional to go with the published one.  Eventually I ordered a devo booklet to come directly to the house.

The pages in the first notebook I filled were personal, in plain diary-speak.  Sentences started with “I don’t understand…” and contained questions like “Does God care about…” and I copied Bible verses to remember.  Sometimes the pages contained a pouring out of feelings, not unlike my journal entries from my teens: “I can’t believe that this happened!  Eeeeeee!!!!!”

Six years later, my sentences go like this: “Hope exists for those who trust that God will do what he says he will do, and wisdom comes when we ask for it, take his word into our heart, and live according to it.”

Wait.  What is that, now?

When my husband and I met, he was strong in faith and I was not.  We were not church-goers as a couple, but he assumed that I knew church talk when he told me that “You are a Christian when you invite Jesus into your heart.”  I thought this was the weirdest thing I had ever heard.  I warned him that it was very cult-like to talk this way.  I didn’t get it.  Invite Jesus into my – what?  Are we in Crazytown?

Turns out he was using church talk.

Church talk is ending each sort of complain-y rant about your husband and kids and horrible in-laws with “But I am so blessed” and “God has given me so much” and “I owe my life to Jesus” and “I’m praying for you” and “Hope exists for those who trust that God will do with he says he will do.”  Peppering every conversation with words of faith.  ßSee?  I did it right there.

It’s a little weird, a little secret society-ish to those who don’t go to church regularly, who haven’t heard it spoken for years and years.  Church talkers can have regular conversations with other church talkers, can hear it and not snicker and become alarmed that the speaker is about to toss you into the back of his van and drive you to a farm somewhere and make you give up all your worldly possessions for the good of the commune and marry someone named Supreme Leader Ricky along with 240 other lucky ladies.

It’s why Jesus used parables, and why the Pharisees hated him.  He told stories that people could relate to, and stayed away from church talk.  He did this so everybody would understand what he was about.

Church talkers think that they are using regular worldly words, but they aren’t.  They are using words that – get this – Jesus put into their hearts.

Because it’s easy.  Because when the Holy Spirit stirs, you want to share it.  But often, what the Holy Spirit wants is for us to wait.

Listen some more.  Decide what to say.  Say a quick prayer for wisdom, for the right words.

Often, the right words aren’t You are blessed.  Or God loves you.  Or Jesus says.  Instead, they are I love you.  I can help.  I understand.  I have those feelings, too.  Your kids are great.  I always feel welcome at your house.  I hope your husband gets a job soon.  I’m sorry your mother-in-law is a monster.

Sometimes, the right thing to say is nothing at all.

It has become a struggle for me not to default to church talk when talking about faith, or God, or even everyday situations that I think are teaching something.  After a while, church talk takes over because it’s just easier to use in explaining things, because I have learned so much.  The hard work becomes using real talk when speaking to others about what I think I know about God.  Holding back when the truth is right there, about to come out.  Waiting for wisdom, which trumps church talk.

Every time.



  1. This is so profoundly wise and yet so simple it could be a parable. And no, I didn't mean to do church talk there. Thank you for the reminder. I want to train my heart to stop and pray before I speak.

    1. Me too, Jennie. When it becomes easy for me to default to "God says..." I need to figure out first what God is saying to me.

  2. OH gosh how I LOVE this Andrea!! And that graphic is just so beautiful. You made me think. I try so hard to not church talk, especially when I am reaching out to people who know nothing about Christ. I work hard to use the right words when I write about my faith, so that people can understand better, those things we know so well.

    This is something EVERY CHRISTIAN needs to read...I've seen so much church talk go on deaf ears, because it isn't the language people speak if they do not know. As hard as Christians try to church talk people into knowing and understanding Jesus, it does both a disservice on both ends- The Christian isn't getting through to the non-believer and the non- believer isn't receiving the message through words they do not have in their own language.

    Thank you for this. I needed the reminder.

    1. I am so happy this resonated with you, Chris! While I think my faith is so strong that I now catch myself thinking on (what I think are) God's terms, I have to be mindful that not everyone is, and it's my job to wait for the right words to say.

      Thank you for the kind words!

  3. Oh, my, yes!!!! I catch myself doing it as well but church talk out of someone else's mouth can drive me batty around non-church-talk interpreters.

    1. I always do the internal eye roll when I hear those words come from my mouth. Who do I think I am, anyway? :)