List of Christian Expressions or Phrases that Are Churchy or Christianese that can Trigger Negative Church Experiences

 

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Popular phrases or expressions heard in Christian churches or groups that now identify as “churchy” or Christianese and now sometimes annoy the heck out of those of us who have been hurt in church.

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photo credit: Joshua Daniel O. via photopin cc

 

This is Sunday and some of you/us may have difficulty going to church for a number of reasons. The other day I was at praise and worship practice and heard an expression that I realized embodied churchy lingo. The leader asked for us all to gather for a “word of prayer.” A word of prayer? Why “a word?” Prayer consists of a lot of words.  Anyway, it was just an expression that just smacked of Christianese.  It made me wonder why we have strange lingo that outsider might not understand? Why do we have to be so “churchy?”

And then I was thinking about the fact that some church phrases annoy me for other reasons.  Here’s one: “with every head bowed and every eye closed.” Why did they want all of us to close our eyes? What was going on in the church when my eyes were closed? I had to know. Sometimes that phrase doesn’t bother me, but at other times, it does. It takes me back to a time in my childhood at an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church that was quite legalistic.  I got in trouble because my dress was too short. I was very tall and growing like a weed. My mom worked full-time and it was hard for her to find clothes to fit me. I felt humiliated and embarrassed, so sometimes, when I hear that phrase, it takes me back to that time and it feels very uncomfortable. I wish that phrase never existed. It really isn’t necessary to have every head bowed and eyes closed. That’s just extra nonsense.

I thought of a few more that might yield similar results:

Accept Jesus as your personal Savior

Ask Jesus in your heart

Let’s have a word of prayer

Offering plate

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Do you have any more phrases or words to add to this list?  What are some phrases or words that are churchy to you?  Do you have some that trigger bad memories or feelings?

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206 comments on “List of Christian Expressions or Phrases that Are Churchy or Christianese that can Trigger Negative Church Experiences

  1. I was just told in my bible study: “if you believe the days of creation were longer than an actual day, you need to question your salvation “. Not the first time I’ve heard the phrase: ” If…fill in the blank…you need to question your salvation”. Isn’t the “Christian” making that statement judging, which the bible clearly tells us not to do?

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  2. Excellent, kris. The questioning of salvation drives me nuts because basically it means: I don’t approve of your thinking or interpretation of things. You need to come to MY understanding.

    (That’s you, CON.)

    Like

  3. “if you believe the days of creation were longer than an actual day, you need to question your salvation “

    If that’s the case, then the professor who discipled me when I became a Christian as a college student would have been in serious trouble when he died 25 years ago.

    Like

  4. A couple of week ago, I posted a Tweet:
    “No matter how bad my day is going or how miserable my life circumstances, I deserve far worse!”
    Part of my motivation was to see who would realize I was being ironic. Well, wouldn’t you know it — lots of favorites and re-Tweets! Two of them came from fairly well known YRR guys.

    Like

  5. Julie Anne, I will definitely consider writing a guest post. How do I send it your way?

    You are so right regarding church leaders being ill-equipped to handle various situations. My story with SGM mainly has to do with mental illness, depression and the failure of the leaders to respond in appropriate ways, which led to an unraveling of who I am, a complete breakdown, a week long stay in a psychiatric ward and subsequent years of counseling.

    So, I’m not sure how much I should go into that now, considering this is a post regarding “Christianese” words and phrase.

    And, I’m not blaming my entire breakdown on SGM; I think it was a culmination of years of depression and not dealing with it sufficiently by getting extensive counseling, but I think it was exacerbated tremendously by the toxic, legalistic environment that I was exposed to for that length of time – the constant reminders of how wretched we are, the refusal to acknowledge the value of psychiatric medication and the need for professional counseling, the demand for unquestioning allegiance to authority, the required adherence to man made rules (a Christian family WILL homeschool), the misguided information about anti-depressants (oh, it’s a “happy” pill and a way to evade dealing with sin), the arrogance of the leaders thinking they can deal with any and every situation that comes through the church doors, and so on.

    And, yes, I do have some triggers to this day. For example, in our Sunday school recently, we talked about the verse regarding submitting and obeying our authorities, and that caused anxiety within me, even though my current church is absolutely NOTHING like my SGM church.

    Sometime in 2007 I did share my story on the survivor’s blogs, but I haven’t said anything since then. It might be good for me to share my story having come this far and reflect on lessons learned.

    Again, please tell me how I could pass my story on to you.

    Thank you, again. Traci

    Like

  6. The worst, I think, is the teaching that marriage to a godly spouse is a reward God gives you only when you’ve attained some mysterious level of sanctification. And of course, you must be perfectly content in your singleness.

    This reminds me of another phrase I’ve heard: “God will bring you a spouse when you stop looking.” Believe me, it doesn’t work that way.

    Like

  7. Traci:

    My e-mail is spiritualsb@gmail.com

    Don’t worry about straying off-topic for the current article. You’re on topic for the theme of the blog which is to be a safe place for survivors to tell their stories 🙂 We seem to multi-task in these threads with several conversations going on at once.

    Like

  8. The “you really need to forgive” is a tough one, too, especially if there has been abuse. Many times to Christians, forgiveness means restoration of relationship and I do not believe that is even wise in some abuse cases.

    Excellent point, Julie Anne.

    I heard that phrase a number of times when I was the target of workplace bullying at a previous job. The bully was the person who became my supervisor after my longtime boss retired. Over the next couple of years I experienced not only job consequences, including a demotion and twice being placed on warning; I also experienced health consequences from the constant badgering, harassment and putdowns. I eventually lost that job, but too many Christians I talked to and prayed with wanted me to simply forgive and move on without acknowledging the serious consequences of what took place. Eventually I was able to forgive and move on, but it was a long process. And I still deal with some of the consequences today.

    Like

  9. Something else just crossed my mind after my last post. I now work at a hospital. My former supervisor is now retired and not in good health. I wonder how I would react if I ever saw her again. Maybe I need to do some more work on that one.

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  10. “You shouldn’t judge” when you want someone accused of a heinous crime (say child molesting) sidelined to a spot where he cannot do the same harm again.

    Like

  11. The following terms are like nails to a blackboard for me:

    -equip
    -grow as in “grow your church”.

    GAG

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  12. “I feel that Holy Spirit is purging the church of that which is hindering the growth of the church. (from the preacher that just run the family off that questioned something he did)” – Jimmydee

    You are not the only person to have heard that. My pastor, after 30 (he said)/ 50 (a leaving elder said) of the most active in the about 400-member congregation went away within a few months, he said that the church could now go forward faster with the “brake shoes” that oppose renewal. Renewal and protecting the status quo had nothing to do with the problems they mentioned.

    That was my last sermon there, the next member to leave was me…

    Like

  13. “take back America for God”
    “transform the nations for Christ” (these last 2 are Dominionism)
    “pray the prayer” (the one found in Campus Crusade’s 4 Spiritual Laws)
    “ask Jesus into your heart”
    “accept Christ”
    “quiet time”
    “accountability partner”
    “covering”
    “go to Church”
    “What Church do you go to?”
    “it was God’s will” (referring to some evil thing)
    “Biblical Christianity” (referring to Calvinism)
    “get plugged in to a good Church”
    “Church planting”
    “launch our new Church plant”
    “core team” (for the new Church plant launch)
    “pastor’s Vision”
    “leadership”
    There’s lots more, lol.

    Like

  14. Cindy K, have you published any of your stuff on the spiritual lives of composers? I’d really be interested in that.

    Like

  15. Pastor: “Lem-me unpack this for you.”

    Translation:

    Pastor: “I could have said, “Let me explain this…but that wouldn’t have sounded as, like, heavy, and complex. See, there are like…these layers…yeah, layers, like layers of clothes in a suitcase that I gotta unpack for ya. Scriptures are like layers of clothes…gotta be unpacked one layer at a time. It’s complex. Complex…like hidden meaning complex– hidden in layers–layers within layers… and you can’t do it. That’s why you need me…ME…to unpack. Yeah…like, I’m like… the prophet, see?

    Like

  16. “The Lord knows”…. when my mother wants to change the subject.

    “What a neat Christian”…. my mother’n’law.

    “He/she is a neat Christian, too” As if my dentist, doctor, auto mechanic, teacher, cashier, employee, neighbor, etc. isn’t as good as yours?

    “Let’s just bow our heads in prayer, no one looking around, raise your hand so I can pray for you…okay, thank you, thank you, yes.. I see you, yes, I see you…yes, up in the balcony I see you…okay you can put your hand down now” i.e. I need to know how many I successfully manipulated today and I don’t want to be embarrassed that no one raised their hand.

    “Will you bless the food?” usually spoken to the perceived most spiritual man in the room at the time or the narcissist no one wants to offend by not asking him while the food is getting cold …awkward sudden silence if someone asks a woman. And all the while the women who slaved over the hot stove just want people to eat the food while it still tastes good… but no, the perceived most spiritual man or narcissist who was asked to bless the food becomes long winded and blesses everything that comes to his mind at the time…so..by the time you get in line for the food you’re feeling too guilty to eat because you know how unspiritual you were by only thinking about the FOOD during the blessing!

    I also grew up with:
    “Stand while we turn to page 489 of the hymnal, that’s page 4..8..9. We will sing the first, second, and fourth stanzas…Men, the first stanza, women the second stanza and altogether on the fourth stanza.”
    Oh the embarrassment if you accidentally started the wrong gender stanza, it was like a control trap joke of the song leaders they must have learned at their hymnal leadership conferences.

    Like

  17. :”Pastor: “Lem-me unpack this for you.”

    Translation:

    Pastor: “I could have said, “Let me explain this…but that wouldn’t have sounded as, like, heavy, and complex. See, there are like…these layers…yeah, layers, like layers of clothes in a suitcase that I gotta unpack for ya. Scriptures are like layers of clothes…gotta be unpacked one layer at a time. It’s complex. Complex…like hidden meaning complex– hidden in layers–layers within layers… and you can’t do it. That’s why you need me…ME…to unpack. Yeah…like, I’m like… the prophet, see?”

    BWAHAHA! That one is a classic in my neck of the woods. It is especially gospelly delicious when said by an arrogant 20something YRR seminary student who is still using Clearasil and desperately trying to grow a goatee. Only they can “unpack” for you the complex meaning. Sigh

    Like

  18. “Cindy K, have you published any of your stuff on the spiritual lives of composers? I’d really be interested in that.”

    Did she tell you that her favorite composer/singer Kenny Loggins is aka Jesus? (hee hee…she is going to get me back!!!)

    Like

  19. “No matter how bad my day is going or how miserable my life circumstances, I deserve far worse!”
    Part of my motivation was to see who would realize I was being ironic. Well, wouldn’t you know it — lots of favorites and re-Tweets! Two of them came from fairly well known YRR guys.”

    SMG, It really is that bad out there, isn’t it? Irony is well understood in evangelicalism these days. Sheesh!

    Like

  20. Velvet Voice,

    I haven’t, but this lovely book is a nice start.

    http://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Lives-Composers-Patrick-Kavanaugh/dp/0310208068/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1396900956&sr=8-1&keywords=spiritual+lives+of+the+great+composers

    I studied piano with a woman who taught at what eventually became Valley Forge Christian College (but it was Green Lane Bible Institute when I started with her). When I would learn some new hymn or other important music, she would first tell me the story behind the writing of it. Were it not for studying with her, I would never have heard so many of the stories. I wish I had taped her talking about them now. She died a few years ago. She was a dear friend and mentor.

    One of the most beautiful moments of my life happened when she told me about Beethoven and the premiere of Symphony No. 9, just after he lost his hearing. It was my first time playing “Ode to Joy.” He was terrified that the response would be terrible and sat with his head in his hands. Someone had to tell him to look up to see the applause and the thrill of the audience.

    Like

  21. Lydia,

    Fanny Crosby has him beat by a mile!

    Lydia’s talking about the trail of tweets that I initiated over the weekend.

    Like

  22. @DaveAA:

    “Truth matters!” (Translated: My opinion is the truth. YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!!!)

    Last time I had “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!!” used on me, it was an email harassment campaign several years ago falsely accusing me of bestiality. I react accordingly.

    Still more Christianese I can’t stand:
    “Edify”, “Edifying” — in my experience, another example of the Gnostic “Spiritual Good! Physical BAAAAAAAD!” The Shepherding “Fellowship” I was involved with in the Seventies used it a lot to describe what was Absolutely Compulsory instead of Forbidden. Very common putdown of anything other than SCRIPTURE(TM) and WITNESSING(TM). (If I hadn’t discovered D&D, I might have disappeared forever behind the walls of their cult compound…)

    Like

  23. Mack, “sovereign” is another one for me, too. I am now allergic to my little NLT translation, because it loves the title of “Sovereign Lord” and uses it in nearly every other line. Practically burns my eyes.

    Like

  24. @Loretta:

    “take back America for God”

    Like the Ayatollahs took back Iran for Al’lah?

    “transform the nations for Christ” (these last 2 are Dominionism)

    That anything like Scientology’s “Clearing the Planet”?
    (At one point in his career, L Ron Hubbard was living at sea on a Sea Org-crewed ship. According to others on board, he spoke about taking over a Third World country, “Clearing” it (converting it to Scientology), and from there using it as a base to “Clear the Planet”.)

    “pray the prayer” (the one found in Campus Crusade’s 4 Spiritual Laws)
    “ask Jesus into your heart”
    “accept Christ”

    AKA “Say-the-Magic-Words Salvation”. And “the prayer” is largely cribbed from a Catholic prayer called “The Act of Contrition”. How did that become the One True Way for American Evangelical types?

    “accountability partner”

    Party Commissar ready to denounce you?

    “What Church do you go to?”

    I have a stock answer to that one:
    “ROMISH PAPIST WITH SATANIC DEATH COOKIES!”
    (May as well be up front about it…)

    Like

  25. “What Church do you go to?”
    I have a stock answer to that one:
    “ROMISH PAPIST WITH SATANIC DEATH COOKIES!”
    (May as well be up front about it…)”

    lol

    (Sorry-OT) UGH–I am going to be asked that question in the near future when we visit some relatives in the south later this month. Got asked it last year and when we muttered um…um…we’re taking a break from church right now, I immediately got a well, bless your hearts with a big pity-filled smile and a tap on the back hug. UGH.

    Need a good response to — where are you all fellowshipping these days?- if anyone has one.

    Like

  26. I wish I had never been taught to tack on “in Jesus’ name” to the end of my prayers. It became something like a magical incantation, without which, made prayers “less powerful” or invalid, prayers God might not hear.

    Like

  27. Cindy thanks for posting that. cracks me up! And I LOVE Fanny Crosby. I grew UP on Fanny Crosby.

    Like

  28. “Need a good response to — where are you all fellowshipping these days?- if anyone has one.”

    hmmm. Now it depends on whether you want to shut them up or freak them out. You could beat them to it and ask what 501c4 they are attending these days. :o)

    Like

  29. “I wish I had never been taught to tack on “in Jesus’ name” to the end of my prayers. It became something like a magical incantation, without which, made prayers “less powerful” or invalid, prayers God might not hear.”

    The prayer formula. Say it right and it is like magic?

    Like

  30. “The prayer formula. Say it right and it is like magic?”

    Yep, pretty sure we reject Jesus if we fail to recite the formula. That bugged me for a long time, so I started leaving it out, along with the “amen.” Hope God is still listening, hehe… 🙂

    Like

  31. “an arrogant 20something YRR seminary student who is still using Clearasil and desperately trying to grow a goatee.”

    Sorry, but each one of those modifiers is about as helpful as the word “Concordia” in front of the name of a Lutheran institution of higher learning.

    All you needed to say was “YRR seminary student.”

    I know, I know. .. Generalize much?

    Yes!

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  32. Ladies and Gentlemen, the question “Is that the same Cindy K?” has now been answered.

    Thanks, Kenny Loggins!

    Like

  33. “Sorry, but each one of those modifiers is about as helpful as the word “Concordia” in front of the name of a Lutheran institution of higher learning.

    All you needed to say was “YRR seminary student.” ”

    It is called “profiling”. (wink)

    Like

  34. Last 4+ years my answer to “What Church do you go to?” is, “I am the church”. 🙂 Love the look on their faces. lol And my answer to “Where are you fellowshipping at these days?” is, “The church in the wilderness.” They always say something like, “Oh.. is that down in Sunnyvale?” lol

    Like

  35. “The church in the wilderness.”

    lol…good answer! Sounds like a good name for a church.

    “You could beat them to it and ask what 501c4 they are attending these days. :o) ”

    That’s a convo stopper! lol I like it.

    Like

  36. Catherine Thiemann wrote: “God will never give you more than you can handle.”
    Catherine, I love what Mother Teresa of Calcutta said when she was told this: “Yes, but it seems as though God trusts me entirely too much”.

    Like

  37. What are you in faith for?

    What are you standing for?

    What has God been saying to you this week?

    How has God been challenging you?

    Share with us what God has revealed to you.

    @Headless Unicorn Guy

    “Isn’t that placing a curse on the one who leaves?”

    Yes, indeed. Followed quickly by the story of the Passover, with a warning not to go ‘out of your house’ or the Angel of Death will get you!

    Those who were not ‘in harmony’ with the leadership were ‘sailing with a different ship’.

    And those who did raise concerns, were always ‘coming across as angry and contentious’.

    Like

  38. zooey, Completely relevant statement from Mother Theresa. I have often felt that God trusts me more than I trust me. Gods word said that he will not give you more than you can bear. “seriously, God” has been my answer to Him on many occasions. I know you know me and how broken I am and You say I can handle this?

    Like

  39. lydiasellerofpurple: Regarding the “Where are you fellowshipping…” my answers have ranged from “We’re in between churches” to “I don’t go any more” and give a fuller explanation of what is going on spiritually (much richer than when I was in church).

    Like

  40. @DavidC:

    “Come quickly, Lord.”

    That is one of the Christianese expressions that triggers a negative church reaction in me. Especially if “Lord” is spelled all-caps or with two “o”s.

    Like

  41. “felt needs” reminds me of “Love is not a feeling, it is a choice”. I hear that phrase so often in my church.

    Like

  42. I have been reading this thread and several of these sound very familiar with me. I’ve tweeted some to Julie Anne.

    DO NOT tell me that “God is in control” unless you value your life. I have heard it used as a spiritual brush-off too often.

    “Step out on faith” –what in the world are you doing when you do it?

    “Doing in your own strength” vs. doing it in God’s strength — how do you know the difference?

    And I hear people as far as “in Jesus’ name”. I sometimes find myself reciting, “In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen” in this sing-songy type recitation–and that’s not what I want to do.

    Like

  43. Late to the party but didn’t see this one mentioned.

    I’m constantly hearing “I can do all things through CHRIST who strengthens me!” in relation to, I kid you not, being able to run the latest 5k/Marathon/Half race.

    You keep using that verse. I do not think you know what that verse means.

    Like

  44. “WELCOME BACK MY FRIENDS
    TO THE SHOW THAT NEVER ENDS…”
    — Emerson Lake & Palmer, “Karn Evil Nine”

    Like

  45. Pingback: What’s Your Trigger Say About Your Beliefs? | janetkwest

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