I drove past a church the other day, and the church’s sign had a wonderful scripture verse in the “Authorized” version (KJV):
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus… Romans 8:1a (KJV)
I smiled…because I’m an insider. I go to church all the time. In fact, as a pastor, I’m a professional church insider! I know that condemnation from God is gone from my life, because the cross of Christ paid for my sins and I’ve been set free; it’s a great message!
And then it hit me like the dawn’s early light – it was: CHURCHSPEAK. Insiders understand churchspeak; outsiders furrow their brows and think, Huh?
It’s true; 40 years ago 75% of everyone who drove past that sign would understand because they’d heard that verse in sermons and read it at home. Today 95% would think, Huh? Whazzat mean? What language are they speaking? Don’t they know condemnation is a hate crime? You can’t condemn anybody these days.
And they’d also say, And what’s-up with that IN-Christ Jesus business? I’ve been IN the mood for ice cream, and IN the park…IN the kitchen…and even IN-transit; but, IN Christ Jesus? How can I climb INside somebody who lived back whenever? Dumb!
Churchspeak is often a disconnect between insiders and outsiders. And there is a whole generation (or three) of outsiders.
To communicate the Gospel – the Good….GREAT news of Jesus’ love and forgiveness means learning the language of those to whom you speak. And language is fluid; it changes from generation to generation….and even from week to week in our fast-paced world.
Now, it’s not a crime to be a few weeks behind, but when we’re decades off the mark sharing Jesus, it’s time to do some soul searching and word-changing. Because, while God is unchanging in His character and nature, he always meets us where we are in a changing world.
To refuse to change our churchspeak ways is to refuse to act like Christ, who always spoke clearly. And to refuse that is to choose to die as a church.
So, I rolled it around in my mind how the real message of that Scripture could mean something to outsiders in 2014…here’s what I came up with:
Well…they’d still probably consider me pretty lame in high school…but at least they’d understand.
For You, Today…
Watch your words today. If you’re going to talk about Jesus to anyone – and I hope you will – make sure you act like Jesus did with the Samaritan Woman at the well.
Start simple – stay truthful – make sure your words count.