Saturday, November 3, 2012

Church Lingo? Do They Have Their Own Language?

When I lived on the East coast and in the South and after some confusion, I figured out that barbecue was not a verb, but a noun.  I lived in California and Oregon as a child and in those states, we barbecued "cooked" steaks, chicken, hamburger, hot dogs, etc, on the barbecue.  I can hear my Eastern and Southern friends laughing now.  On the East coast, you grill steaks, hot dogs, chicken, hamburger, etc.

JA is drooling . . . . . . .this is da bomb!  

East of California, Oregon, and Washington (and I really don't know where this boundary line is, maybe someone can fill me in) barbecue means meat which is cooked slowly or smoked and then seasoned with sauces.  I am certainly no expert at this cuisine, but I love to eat it. When we lived in GA and in VA, this wonderfully flavored meat was served on buns with cole slaw (I put the cole slaw on my meat!). Yummmm! 

Following my husband's many years in the Navy, we lived all over the States and overseas and one of my favorite pastimes is hearing different accents and learning different lingo.  

One reader tells me he goes to camp on the weekends and I mistakenly thought he was going camping each weekend.  No, he was talking about a house on stilts in Louisiana.  

Authentic "camp" in Louisiana.  Evidently I would be laughed at for calling it a cabin
in Louisiana, but it sure looks like a cabin to me :)

I currently have three teenagers and also volunteer at the local high school playing the piano for the choral department.  I'm exposed to all sorts of fun lingo there.  I'll give an attempt here:  

It's pretty lame if I epically fail and use the wrong words with teens.  They have fun with that.  But it's pretty sick when I pwn (yes, I spelled that correctly) them by my vast knowledge of their teen lingo.  They're just haters.

BTW, if you would like to know where I first learned of the updated teen definition of "haters", it was from watching Miranda Sings videos (below).  I will surely lose readers after this disclosure.  We are a big choral family and this woman cracks us up.  We laugh so hard we cry.  My little boys go around the house with a funky-vibrato-voice thing going on and it drives me crazy - lol.  Watch at your own risk.  This was the first Miranda video we saw and got hooked.  

Churches groups also use their own lingo and code words.  I received an e-mail from Joel on this topic last week:

Hi Julie Anne, 
I've had this thought running through my head about "Code Words".  You see it all the time in churches.  My favorite because it sounds so Holy but really is quite ambiguous is "Bible Based" or "Biblically Based". 
I tend to run when I see those two because of that.   Why ambiguous?  If I say my church is Bible Based what does that mean?   Do I run around the inside of the church naked like Adam and Eve (actually John McArthur claims the Shakers did just that in his book "The Charismatics").   Do you sacrifice at the alter?  Israel was told to do that.
The same can be said for "Biblically based marriage" or "Biblical based family".  Looking at some of the marriages throughout the Bible, they don't equate to anything like what we think a "western marriage" should look like.  Abraham, a godly man right?   Told the kings his wife was his sister, bedded her maid, etc.  David?  How many wives?  Solomon? No better. No good example of good marriages in the New Testament.  The same for the families...   I would hate to have a family that is based upon the way Jacobs children treated Joseph.
So, my question and something that may be interesting research is what are the "Code Words" of abusive churches and people.  
Do you think the "code-words" lead to tribal thinking.   Another thing that can lead to abuse (hazing?)

I would love to discuss this.  I have definitely noticed that churches use their own lingo or coded words.   Among the Gospel Coalition, you can see the term "gospel" used quite frequently.  If something is going to be universally accepted in that group,  it will be cloaked with "gospel-centered ________".  You can see this lingo if you follow Twitter "tweets" of people associated in these church groups.  

Have you noticed any lingo or coded words in your church?  Do you think this coded lingo is more prevalent in abusive churches?  

I've started a collection and would wanted to see how many we could come up with here.  


  1. Julie Anne,

    Yes, there are various dialects of Christianese, with slang here and there. I'm not sure it is more prevalent in abusive churches, but I think there is an element of it tied to "being right" in doctrine and belief, which includes those who abuse based on their perceived rightness.

    Here in San Fran (people from San Fran hate San Fran being called San Fran, BTW, kinda like people from Boston hate it being called "bean town") the term "'cue" as an abbreviation of barbecue is more often used as the verb. "Hey, dude, we're gonna 'cue up some burgers." And 'cueing up burgers is definitely biblical and godly.

    1. Come to think of it, here in northern Calif, I don't hear "barbecue" used much as a noun, but the shortened "'cue" is often used as a noun. "Hey, dude, let's go get some 'cue."

    2. Wow, thanks for edumacating me in CA lingo, Steve. I had no idea things had changes so much since I lived there. But Californians think they're kind of special, ya know, cuz they're like the ones who invented like Valley Girl talk, ya know.

    3. Julie Anne, you left out one "like" from your comment. You could insert it like anywhere ya know. Oh, I almost forgot: "Dude."

      The real reason we think we're special is that we know when the big earthquake happens, the REST of the country will fall off into the ATLANTIC ocean. ;)

    4. LOL - so funny.

      Oh, and I was wondering if those 'cued burgers were gospel-centered or just biblical and godly. I need the full meal deal.

  2. Thanks, Julie Anne, I (as an atheist, I'll confess) have been genuinely confused by the idea of "biblical based" practices. I grew up Catholic, and wondered how what I was taught clearly was implied *not* to be bible based? I really and truly have no idea what it is supposed to mean.
    And I'll stir up controversy.... when I was growing up, I had Baptist friends and Presbyterian friends and Lutheran friends (and many others).... now everyone seems to just be Christian, who happens to attend a certain church. As an adult, I never hear anyone self-identifying with any particular denomination any longer... is that simply my perspective from looking in from the outside, or is that the norm?

    1. Hey Helltygr: LOL - typing your name :) Ok, I'm confused about this part: what you were taught implied "not" to be bible based - - Can you rephrase that for me, please?

      Ok, the 2nd question. I think you're right - that more people just say Christian and only specify if you ask more specific. I'm not sure why that is, but I seem to remember more people identifying their denomination years ago.

      Oh, let me try to see if I can explain what I mean by bible-based and see if that clear anything up. In some churches, they seem to want to add the word "biblical" in front of words. I think they use it in a way to make it appear that their way is the right way ie, "biblical" way. I mean, who can argue with the Bible? Let me give an example - there was a parenting program called, "Growing Kids God's Way". Think about it - if you tried another program, you would almost think that the other program was inferior because it wasn't "God's" way. Who would want to compete with another parenting program when this one does it "God's way".

      My creepo meter goes off when I hear these buzz words because they seem to be trying to hard to convince us that this is the right way that they have to use "biblical" or "gospel" or whatever the buzz word is. Let me know if that doesn't answer your question.

    2. Julie:

      I think there are many Southern Baptist that do not want to tell others they are Southern Baptist because IMO it comes with to much negative baggage.

    3. That's a good point, Tom. I'm wondering if there are any churches without negative baggage anymore - - - hmmmm?

    4. Julie:

      Sadly, I do not think so. Leadership is so focused on Power and Money that trusting the Holy Spirit to guide them does not seem to come into their focus.

      But unless one gets "involved" in the life of the church, it appears to me they do not notice or care.

      I've seen enough in my life to know something is always going on with the "leaders."

    5. Tom - are you saying that you think all churches or all denominations have a power/money focus problem? I cannot make a blanket statement about all churches. The church we left (after BGBC) in OR was not focused on money or power. I know a number of churches/pastors where they seem to have their heart focused in the right direction. Of course no church is perfect, . . . . but if their heart is right, it's a lot easier to overlook a lot of smaller issues.

    6. Julie:

      No, I'm not making a blanket statement. Sorry, I was not clearer. There are definitely some good churches/pastors out there.

  3. I have found that "discernment" is code for "if you don't believe like the rest of us then you obviuosly are not hearing the Holy Spirit" and so must obviously not be saved. It's a conformist group think thing, the kind of tactic that makes my skin crawl and sends me packing.

    I can't find a conversation, anymore, in which this word is not manipulative.

    1. Ah - -good word. I've not encountered that word used like that, but can definitely see how it could be used in a "creepy" church setting. Thanks, I will add it to my list!

  4. I'm sick of people using "emerging church" or "missional church". I know one church that claims to be emerging or missional and it is VERY abusive.

    1. I don't know that I've heard abuse stories in emerging or missional churches. I guess it's everywhere. :(

  5. This is more Christianese than "code," but I cannot stand the word "season." God is blessing this season in my life..... This is only for a season..... blech!

    Going back to that word, "blessing." That is a word that sometimes bothers me too. When I hear someone say, "God is blessing us," that makes me want to ask them why God is choosing to bless you, when you have so much, when someone else isn't being "blessed" who could really use some help.

    1. You're right, there is "Christianese" lingo and there are buzzwords or coded language. Sometimes Christianese tries to be so PC. I hear you on the "blessed" topic. It reminded me of another funny word situation. Sometimes Christians go over the top thinking they are compromising their religious beliefs when they use common words. For example, I know someone who refused to say "potluck" because of the word "luck", so she called them "potbless" HAHA!!! things like that crack me up.

      One time a mom reprimanded me for calling my kids "kids", saying I should be calling them "children" because "kids" are goats. Well, in my world, kids are children. I don't mean any disrespect, it's just what they are. She thought I was belittling them by using that word. Oh, that reminds me of another Christianese: calling children "blessings". I have 7 blessings.

    2. I think that's why it's so refreshing to hear a child or a new believer pray, because the prayer is raw and from the heart and not full of the flowery language we sometimes think Prayer (la la la) should be. The Bible says that our yes should be yes and our no, no. It says that our words should have meaning. I don't necessarily think that using Christian buzzwords is any worse than using regular buzzwords (at the end of the day, for example); they are equally wearisome. It's just that we tend to repeat what we hear repeatedly.

      Interesting topic. I'm taking this as a personal challenge to own the words I use.

    3. I love that, Jess. That is another religiosity turn-off for me: lofty spiritual prayers.

      I remember the first time I talked with Pastor Ken Garrett on the phone, he asked if he could pray for me. I loved our phone conversation and was fully expecting a prayer like a pastor would normally pray. I was so struck by how genuine and his words were - they were personal, humble, heart-felt, but not the Christianese I am so used to. Wow, it touched me so much - - obviously, it's been probably close to 6 months since I heard that prayer and I still think about it! :) Wonder if Ken is going to read this - I don't think I told him this before.

    4. Thanks, Julie Anne, for letting me pray for you! I still do, and SO APPRECIATE your prayers for me!

    5. Ken - - You're welcome, friend!

    6. And then there's "love on"....What the heck is "love on"? We didn't use that term when I was growing up. But we did say "It's a God thing" in college. Then there were the usual standard phrases whenever somebody stood up to lead the prayer: Father God, we come here tonight to...., we ask you...., bless this food to our bodies (that was my dad's).

  6. YES: Google "Christianese Translator". You'll find a lot of really stupid terms that were brought up years ago on Spiritual Abuse Forums.

    I totally agree with Not Alone on the "discernment" term.

    It seems that the Charismatic/Pentecostal world has a LOT of these strange code words that other churches just don't use.

    I'm not familiar with what the Calvinists codes may be, unless I have read them on JAs blog. But years ago I was involved in the Pentecostal world. It's a great world to escape from! It has much insanity, IMHO...

    Anyone else bothered by someone who runs up to you and says, "I got a word for you." (As if God just spoke to them directly.) But only one little word?
    Not sure I want to hear it......

    1. HA!!! Ok, my church background is quite diverse and for the first 8 or so yrs of our marriage, we attended Foursquare, Church of God, or Assemblies of God churches (moved a lot due to military). I do remember that expression and it bothered me, too. We have family members who were constantly sending us "a word from the Lord". They seemed to have an inside connection with regard to prophesies and when the world was going to end, too. Want to know what the prophesy fail rate was? 100%

      When we confronted them on their failed prophesies and told them what the Bible says should happen to false prophets, they stopped sending us that nonsense. (But they still believe it themselves.)

    2. Headless Unicorn GuyNovember 9, 2012 at 9:53 AM

      I do remember that expression and it bothered me, too. We have family members who were constantly sending us "a word from the Lord".

      Don't know about you, but I am automatically leery of anyone who claims (in words or actions) that God has them personally on speed-dial. I experienced some hilarious-in-retrospect examples of this with my old college roomie.

    3. HUG - After a while I caught on and told my husband: what's up with that? it's like they think they have a direct line with God in that He gives them all of these special messages. What bugged me the most is: what makes them so special that they get these "words from the Lord" and not us? They must be really spiritual. wow

    4. Yeah, I picked up that practice from the 700 Club.

  7. One of the benefits of hanging out with Net gamers online is I understood your "teen lingo" there, even though I'm almost 40 and my son is way too young yet. LOL I can even use it without sounding like a poser! :D

    Miranda's eyebrow twitch is so funny. She's quite the ham, isn't she?

    I recall looking through classifieds for a church, and knowing to avoid the "spirit-filled" churches because they were Charismatic and we didn't want to deal with speaking in tongues etc. ;)

    Now in Orthodoxy, the usual code words don't apply, because our doctrine/worship are supposed to be basically the same everywhere. But I still need to learn a new lingo, because what one word means in the Western churches, is different from what it means in Orthodox churches. For example, justification is not a legal term or one-time event in Orthodoxy, but the continuous process of becoming righteous. You can see in the Greek that "righteous" and "justified" come from the same root word in Romans 3:21-24. For another example, salvation is not a one-time event, but a lifelong process. You have to adjust your understanding when converting, or you can get confused.

    I always understood "biblically-based" as very conservative, traditional viewpoints. Lingo also helps in figuring out the denomination/affiliation of a church when you're going through the classifieds. :) Latter-Day Saints, you know it's Mormon. Full gospel or Apostolic, Pentecostal. Bible church, very conservative. United Pentecostal, unitarian. I don't know if abusive churches use lingo any more than anybody else....


Please refrain from using "Anonymous" as your user ID. Instead, click on Name/URL. In the "name" field, type your pseudonym, ie, Fred Flinstone.

You may leave the URL field blank. Thank you for commenting!

I reserve the right to remove or not publish disruptive and/or rude comments.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.