ignorance

Responsibility of Revelation

Photo credit: lightstock.com Let me explain. Christ became a servant for the Jewish people to reveal God’s truth. As a result, he fulfilled God’s promise to the ancestors of the Jewish people. 

People who are not Jewish praise God for his mercy as well. This is what the Scriptures say,

“That is why I will give thanks to you among the nations and I will sing praises to your name.”

And Scripture says again, “You nations, be happy together with his people!”

And again, “Praise the Lord, all you nations! Praise him, all you people of the world!”

Again, Isaiah says, “There will be a root from Jesse. He will rise to rule the nations, and he will give the nations hope.”

May God, the source of hope, fill you with joy and peace through your faith in him. Then you will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (‭Romans‬ ‭15:‭8-13 (GW)


Israel was chosen by God to be His people—His nation. Not because they were special, but for a special purpose.

God wanted a people who lived differently than the majority of people in the world. People who served a living God instead of caught up in superstitions and idolatry. He wanted them to be His light of revelation to other nations, but they failed to do this.

This is the responsibility of the church—the global community of believers who personally follow Jesus, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity.

We—the global community of believers—are to bring the light of redemptive grace and hope found in Jesus to a world lost in spiritual darkness and ignorance.

God's Spirit dwelling in believers is the source of our hope, joy, and peace. He is the source of light a world in darkness needs. So, let Him shine through you! ©Word-Strong_2016


Here's an older song taken from this psalm— I waited

A Dilemma

  ©word-strong.com

 

A growing number of people in North America and Europe have no background or understanding of Christianity.

One reason could be the great influx of immigrants from many nations. But an increasing segment of Western society has grown unengaged and uninterested in Christianity, which is the result of a shift in culture.

America’s culture is becoming both post-modern and post-Christian. Europe and Canada have preceded the US in this cultural shift, but America is not far behind.

The church cannot stop this cultural shift, nor can they ignore it. Some will argue this point, but denying or resisting this shift only brings insulation and isolation from people the church wants to reach.[i]

Adjustment needed

Christian believers need to understand this cultural change, and make necessary adjustments to address it. More and more new believers, responding to the gospel and God’s invitation into His Kingdom, come into churches with a limited understanding of Christianity—its beliefs, practices, terminology, and expected lifestyle.

How can Christian believers communicate to people so they hear the truth and respond to Jesus? This is an important question to answer.

Christians need to have a much more global view of the world around them and of God's kingdom. Billions of people in the world—yes, billions![ii]have never heard the gospel or even the name of Jesus once in their lives, or in their own language.

A rapidly growing Muslim population throughout the world appears closed to the gospel, even though the Koran speaks of Isa al Masih (Jesus the Messiah) as a prophet.[iii] Again I ask, how can believers convey the gospel so they can hear it?

The problem of Christianese

Many people lack a frame of reference for understanding the words, terms, and biblical references used by Christian believers. Collectively, these words become foreign language to nonbelievers and new believers. It’s called Christianese—a specialized dialect of English.[iv]

Special words and terms are common in most fields of study. They're called field-dependent terms—words and phrases with specific meanings within a certain field, or a subculture.

Various branches of the sciences, academics and education, politics, and even subcultures like street gangs, have their own lingo—a language specific to their field of reference. Christianity, with its field of study called theology, is no different.

A language of its own

Christians often use specific words and terms with meanings understood within the church—or so they think. My experience as a pastor and cross-cultural missionary tells me differently.

Many Christian believers can't explain these specialized words and terms in plain English so a nonbeliever could understand. This helps make the gospel a mystery to people.

Christian clichés and what I call Bible talk,[v] used outside their field of reference (the church), are unfamiliar and difficult to understand.

Subtitle interpretation needed

I've traveled to many places in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. I know the feeling of hearing a foreign language and not understanding what’s being said. It’s similar to being in a movie with subtitles, but you can’t see and read the subtitles because you’re one of the characters in the movie!

In some conversations and settings, I'm expected to respond. Though I want to, I can’t. This is the predicament Christians put nonbelievers in, and even new believers uninitiated to Christianese. To be fair, most believers don’t realize they do this.

Two issues are at work here. One is the lack of understanding on the part of the nonbeliever or new believer, who doesn’t understand this language.

The second issue is with the believer who uses Christianese, yet doesn’t understand the terms themselves. This is revealed when a person attempts to explain what they say in non-Christian words but can’t.

Experience—the great teacher

Over the years I stumbled upon a simple test of someone’s understanding of Christian terms and theology. If a person can put Christian and Biblical words in his or her own words, then they understand them. If not, they don't.

There's a simple way of communicating Christianese to unbelievers and new believers alike. I use the acronym IYOW—In Your Own Words—to describe the process. It seems simple, but it's not as easy as it sounds.

I didn’t discover this through extensive research, but in much humbler ways.

Learning curve

As a pastor, I’m responsible to feed the sheep, that is, teach the Bible—its doctrine and practice—to help God’s people grow spiritually. I founded a church in Southern California’s high desert in 1978, with my wife and three children, ages newborn to five years. Our fourth child came a few years after the church started.

My older children would hear things in Sunday school and church services, which prompted questions. They often asked dad (me) these questions at inopportune times. It seemed much easier to teach adults than children, or so I thought.

With adults I could use all the Christian theological terms without explaining them. But when my children asked me to explain these same things, I found myself unable to explain them in simple, clear words. More than a few times my oldest daughter would ask simple, heartfelt questions on our way to a church service. “Dad, how can God be one and still be the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?”

As a pastor, my mind was filled with things to do before the service began, as well as on my message. I was not prepared to explain the doctrine of the Trinity to my sweet, elementary-aged daughter in a simple, clear manner.

The reality is, it challenged me, and this changed my whole approach to teaching.

On the job training

My experience in the Philippines, as a teacher of pastors, leaders, and Bible School students, confirmed the importance of this, while teaching in an environment where English was a second language, but Christianity was familiar.

The Philippines is often proclaimed as the only Christian nation in Asia, so students used Christian terms frequently. But, I realized many of the students didn’t have a full understanding of these words and phrases. I got a partial clue early on, while settling into Filipino culture.

Slow to learn

We were part of a little barrio church with many small children, where some of the worship songs were sung in English. One Sunday morning, during greeting time, I started speaking to one of the children. My wife said, “They don’t understand what you’re saying.” I replied, “But they’re singing the songs in English, aren’t they?”

Because I was a bit slow on the uptake, my wife explained that they sang in English because that's how they learned the songs. The children didn’t know what the words meant. Similarly, I could speak a little of their dialect, but didn’t understand the language beyond a few familiar words and phrases.

No more coded language

When people use certain words and terms, and quote Scripture texts, it does not mean they have a clear grasp of what they are saying. Although it may seem clear to the speaker, unless the person can explain these same things in simple words, what’s spoken sounds like a secret code language to the uninitiated.

As Christian believers, we need to speak in simple, clear, non-Christianese words.

What's your experience with using or not understanding Christianese?


This post follows an earlier one called— The Search to Know God

It is another excerpt from my book, which is available in paperback and as an e-book (see sidebar).


[i] There are many books and articles written on post-modern, post-Christian trends, here are some ones I’ve read and recommend— The End of the World as We Know It, C Smith Jr. (2001 WaterBrook Press); Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, by DA Carson (2005 Zondervan). Online articles— http://goo.gl/emWyu | http://goo.gl/yVFBo

[ii] With the world population hitting seven (7) billion at the end of 2011, statistics fluctuate for numbering the billions of unreached and least reached peoples in the world. However, there are organizations dedicated to researching this (see the following links). Joshua Project— http://www.joshuaproject.net/index.php| Operation World— http://www.operationworld.org/| US Center for World Mission— http://www.uscwm.org/

[iii] Isa al Masih is the anglicized term for the Arab name/title of Jesus the Messiah or Jesus (the) Christ. The Koran (the anglicized spelling for Quran or Qur’an) is Islam’s book of sacred writings. Muslims are followers of Islam and the prophet, Mohammed.

[iv] Here are some websites devoted to Christianese— http://dictionaryofchristianese.com/ | http://goo.gl/nssqu| http://goo.gl/aKFDV| http://www.internetevangelismday.com/jargon.php| http://goo.gl/2Y1Bp (also see “Christianese_glossary” in the Glossary)

[v] Christianese comes in many forms—common clichés, Bible references or words from familiar Bible texts, and theological terms (more academic). I call these Bible talk because they are based on words and phrases in the Bible, or in reference to texts in the Bible.

 

Ignorance Is Not Bliss

Photo credit: lightstock.com

We find contrasting thoughts used throughout the Book of Proverbs. These are often expressed in figurative speech like— the foolish and the wise, the poor and the rich, evil and good.

They are posited as choices or as possible directions in life. The result or consequence of a certain choice or direction is the point of the contrast.

And so, discipline is the counter to temptation, as wisdom is to foolishness. The end result depends on what someone chooses, either by default or decision.

Scripture

From a window in my house I looked through my screen. I was looking at gullible people when I saw a young man without much sense among youths. He was crossing a street near her corner and walking toward her house in the twilight, in the evening, in the dark hours of the night. [vss 6-9]

With all her seductive charms, she persuades him. With her smooth lips, she makes him give in. He immediately follows her like a steer on its way to be slaughtered, like a ram hobbling into captivity until an arrow pierces his heart, like a bird darting into a trap. He does not realize that it will cost him his life. [vss 21-23]

Now, sons, listen to me. Pay attention to the words from my mouth. Do not let your heart be turned to her ways. Do not wander onto her paths, because she has brought down many victims, and she has killed all too many. Her home is the way to hell and leads to the darkest vaults of death. [vss 24-27]

(Proverbs 7:6-9; 21-27 GW) [Context– Proverbs 7:1-27]

Key phrase

He does not realize that it will cost him his life.

Digging Deeper...

  1. What is the picture given of the young man in this story? In the larger context of the complete story—what is the progression of events?
  2. How is the young man characterized, as he follows this seductive woman? What does this tell us about the pull of temptation and lust?
  3. What are the exhortations given by the father to his sons? What is said about the consequences of following her path?
  4. Why do you think these exhortations are given in such strong terms? How do they connect with the opening exhortations at the beginning of this chapter (Proverbs 7:1-5)?

Make it personal...

Have you had experiences with wrong choices or choosing a wrong direction in life? What were the consequences?

Have you experienced the progressive pull of temptation or deception? If so, do you remember how strong it was, and how difficult it was to resist it?

What are ways you could have resisted this pull? How can you prevent similar situations in the future?

What are you doing now—in your daily life—to protect yourself from deception and temptation? How are you incorporating God's wisdom in your daily life?

Reflection...

Exhortations and warnings need to be in strong words or we tend to ignore or dismiss them. One reason the pull of seduction and temptation are so powerful is because they don't require immediate, major decisions of a person. As the young man in this story, he "crosses the street" and wanders into the twilight. The pull is subtle and smooth.

The exhortations and contrasts are stark and sudden. They are intended to jolt a person back to their senses rather than wander in a fog of ignorance. Ignorance is not bliss. The end result of ignorance and wandering into seduction and deception is the opposite of bliss—it could cost us our very life.

Seeking Position

WS-devo_PMSJames and John, sons of Zebedee, went to Jesus. They said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do us a favor.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked them. They said to him, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

Jesus said, “You don’t realize what you’re asking. Can you drink the cup that I’m going to drink? Can you be baptized with the baptism that I’m going to receive?” “We can,” they told him.

Jesus told them, “You will drink the cup that I’m going to drink. You will be baptized with the baptism that I’m going to receive. But I don’t have the authority to grant you a seat at my right or left. Those positions have already been prepared for certain people.” (‭Mark‬ ‭10‬:‭35-40‬ GW)

Ambition can be an ugly drive, and ruin a person. Do you seek position in life? Do you think having a certain position would make life better? Do you know what you seek?

Jesus had position and let it go for our sake, and then regained it. What are you willing to let go of for Him?

Afraid to Ask

WS-devo_PMSThey left that place and were passing through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where he was because he was teaching his disciples. He taught them, “The Son of Man will be betrayed and handed over to people. They will kill him, but on the third day he will come back to life.”

The disciples didn’t understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him. (Mark 9:30-32 GW)

Jesus knew His time was short. He focused on teaching His disciples to prepare them for future ministry. He told them plainly what was to come--His death and resurrection as the Messiah. They were afraid to ask what He meant, and show their ignorance.

What do you lack in understanding? Ask! Don't let fear of failure or pride keep you in the dark. ©Word-Strong_2014

Acronym-ically Speaking

Image credit: blinkblink1 / 123RF Stock Photo Acronyms. Gotta love 'em… lol (laughing out loud)! Whether it's government agencies or texting lingo, they've become an integral part of everyday life, at least for most of us. Like them or hate them, they are part of our information-overload culture.

But acronyms, as a rule, are context dependent. Unless you know the context they're used in you won't understand what they mean.

I know a group of believers and a ministry that goes by CIA—Christians In Action. Of course, when most people see these initials the Central Intelligence Agency comes to mind. BTW (by the way), that reminds me of a great line from the movie, Red October— Capt. Bart Mancuso: "Central Intelligence Agency... Now, there's a contradiction in terms."

Acronyms

Terminology and phrases used over and over often get shortened into acronyms.

When I did some work in the chemical dependency field we wrote reports for intake and assessment interviews. Comments were made about a client's social history (Hx) and recommended treatment (Tx). These abbreviations are common within social services and helping professions.

Acronyms are shorthand abbreviations for terms. It saves time and energy. But if you're not familiar with the context they're used in, it can cause confusion.

Christian lingo

Herein lies one of my pet peeves—the use of Christianese. It is a generic, catch-all phrase for Christian lingo and terms. I also call it Bible-talk. For the uninitiated (non-believers or new Christian believers) it is unintelligible talk. It doesn't make sense because there's no frame of reference to understand these terms and phrases.

As with most things I learn, I stumbled into a way of dealing with the overuse and abuse of Christianese. It wasn't discovered through research and study, but a desperate attempt to help my students understand the Bible and theological terms.

In 1995, I established a Bible school in the Philippines with a curriculum based on the Inductive Bible Study (IBS) approach. Working with students for whom English was a second language (ESL), I needed to find a way to help them learn beyond the typical transfer of knowledge—copying and repeating.

How could I get them to understand well-known Bible verses beyond a surface familiarity? How could I help them understand what it means to be born again or what redemption is?

IYOW

I developed the expression IYOW, for In Your Own Words. I asked the students to define words and express Bible verses in their own words. It proved to be a challenging yet fruitful process.

Several years ago we had a group of Americans come over on a short-term mission (STM). They went out with our first-year students for an outreach mission in another area. As part of our curriculum, the students had a class on personal evangelism along with the outreach (OR). This class required them to redefine common Christian terms related to personal evangelism.

I was glad to see how well the students did, but confounded by how the Americans struggled with the assignment. They had a hard time transferring what they knew into words of their own. They seemed to be bound by unspoken rules, as if it wasn't proper to decode these terms into simple words.

A useful tool

I realized I had stumbled upon a useful tool for teaching the truth. Not only for my students, but those who think they know the truth.

You try it. Take a common biblical term (i.e.: salvation, communion, etc.), Christian expression (i.e.: altar call, accept Christ, etc.), or well-known Bible verse (like John 3:16) and put it into your own words (IYOW). You may find it more challenging than you expect.

Next week I'll begin a new category of posts called, IYOW. From time to time I'll try to decode certain terms used in Christian circles (ie: church). I hope it will be helpful and insightful, and maybe a little fun along the way.

What are some Christian expressions or biblical terms you'd like to understand better?

Let me know. Just put them in the comment section. Maybe I'll use one of the suggestions in another post.


For a fun look at Christianese check out this video (still one of my favorites)— Christianese

For a more in-depth view of Christianese, here's a resource in development that might help, and give you a chuckle or two— http://www.dictionaryofchristianese.com/

My Portion

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. (Psalms 73:21-26, 28 NIV84)

What fills your heart? What do you hold on to in this life? Whatever it is, it will hold onto you…But the Lord never let’s go of us. ©DailyDevo2012