Christians are on mission to proclaim and live out the good news of the gospel. Sometimes, we’re not very good at it. When we teach others about Jesus, we may start using words and phrases that are senseless to the person listening to us. In other words, we’re totally failing to do what we’re trying to do. We’re speaking a different language.
Getting Saved Is Cliché
Deciphering the Code
We live in a post-Christian, post-Biblically-literate society. To the millennials, mosaics, and generations whom we are trying to reach, our biblical allusions, New Testament language, and Christian jargon comes across as unintelligible. Here are a few examples of such jargon, with a possible response.
- “Pray the prayer.” What prayer? The prayer? What’s it going to do to me? Who am I praying to?
- “Respond to Jesus.” Respond? I respond to everyone. I respond to Jesus, so what? What kind of response are you talking about?
- “Give your life to Jesus.” What? Like slavery? Like marriage? Like a full-time job? What is this about?
- “Has anyone shared the gospel with you?” Uh, no, but I’m not totally sure what the gospel is.
- “If you were to die today, do you know where you would spend eternity, heaven or hell?” [Blank stare of shock.]
- “A personal relationship with Jesus.” Personal relationship, huh? With someone I can’t see, who lived a couple millennia ago?
- “I got saved.” Saved. You mean like saved from drowning, or saved from a bad relationship? Is this all there is? Just getting “saved” from something bad?
- “I went forward.” Okay, you lost me.
- “I made a decision.” I make decisions every day. Decisions are meaningless. What’s the big deal?
- “I invited Jesus into my heart.” Now that’s just weird. My heart is just fine.
- “I became a Christian.” So? We live in a Christian nation. We’re all basically Christian. This means nothing.
There is not necessarily a problem with each of these phrases. However, unless the person listening to you has a lot of knowledge already about the proper terminology, he or she will not understand what you’re saying.
A Better Way?
What’s the alternative? These phrases are so embedded into our minds, that it’s nearly impossible to remove them from our witnessing verbiage. Should we just stop “witnessing”?
Perhaps a good place to start is by seeking to understand the people you are trying to reach. It may very well be that they understand these phrases, and would respond well to such statements and queries. On the other hand, you may discover that you need to rephrase things—not by watering them down, but by putting them in different words. Another possibility is that you need to spend a lot more time than just an afternoon knocking on doors or handing out tracts. It could be that the best form of “witnessing” comes when you forge relationships—build friendships, meet needs, and understand someone’s life situation.