“Insider” language… or something else

I am learning the importance of being very conscious of the language I use these days. Growing up in the church and listening to Christians talk (myself included) I so often find us using words, phrases, and concepts that really only church people would understand. I was listening to some radio programming yesterday from some folks who would probably disagree with almost everything I am doing… simply because of what it is associated with. One of my favorite things they said was that the gospel is supposed to “offend” and the world is supposed to hate us.

I think of all this as “insider” talk. Reason being, who are we talking to? Who are we trying to influence and make a difference with? If we only seek to talk to other Christians, we can simply continue to use the same language without thinking about it… we can continue to teach the same things without thinking. It seems so often that the “gospel” that so many people talk about, and the “Word” that people “need to hear,” and the “good new” that is preached is only for those who already agree. Now, before I sound like I am pointing fingers, I must say that this is something that I stray into all too easily. My reason for the consideration of another way is because I am working on it myself.

For the first time in my life, I am actually spending time with people who are not blatant Christians. Is it fair for me to say that I love it? Is this okay… probably not for some. As these relationships develop I realize that this good news that I want to live out and embody is not necessarily for people who already have it and already agree with me. This drastically changes the way I talk and the things I say. “Insider” ways of speaking are absolutely useless. I need to think and ask what I mean by what I am saying… what other people mean by what they are saying. Perhaps there can be a greater accountability with the way we speak. I am finding much more intentionality in this area within the emerging church. Who ever said that we are ALL watering things down for people. Maybe we are doing just the opposite?

** It is interesting that the “insider” / “outsider” distinction really only happens on a negative level. I don’t know if there is an actual positive way of thinking about it. Subconsciously, we stray into thinking this way and it gives us reason to abuse the other. It really gets me when our theology specifically and unapologetically affirms this thinking. Those who would not consider themselves “insiders” see this all too easily and perhaps it is one of the biggest turnoffs to the church. our country, our cultural cliques, our media, our gender role distinctions, or our racial / national concepts of superiority.

4 thoughts on ““Insider” language… or something else

  1. I grew up in a Christian home, went to my Dad’s church. I went to public school. When I was at home church I would talk a certain way that I would never talk at school, and when I was at school I would talk in a way that I would never talk in Church or School unless I wanted a diet of dial or ivory soap.

    As I moved into adolescence, and then to post-adolescence and now adulthood I have finally seen the false premise of living a separated life. That is not to say that I am a bible-toting sailor-mouthed post-mod. I am instead very mindful of my language not only within the context of being a potty-mouth, but also within the context of using big theological presumptive words like Gospel, Saved, Born-Again, etc.

    All that said, I search to be at a centered point between that assimilates culture so that like Paul I am a Jew to the Jews and a Greek to the Greeks. Not in search of social acceptance, but in hopes of bridging the cultures.


  2. M,
    Thanks for the reflection. I know what you mean about having a separated life. Whether we swear or whether we don’t, whether we are postmodern or not, I think the words we chose (especially with how we talk about religion) should come from our deepest understand of who Jesus was and what he stood for. Who are we supposed to be talking to? Who is the kingdom for and how do we speak their language?

    Bridging is so important… especially when the bridge looks like something that is drivable for those who we want to travel it.


  3. Nate, Sweetie, I’m “hearing” just as much “insider” talk from you about what you do and want to do with your new attempts at church, as the ones you grew up with. Yours is just more hip and contemporary. 🙂

    I know you’re trying so very hard and I applaud your heart and effort. God will honor it. But maybe 6 people is what He wants you have right now – or maybe more, or, maybe none at all. Can you accept that if He desires such? Can you live as if that’s okay? In other words, your efforts are in obedience to Christ, but unconditional offerings to people otherwise.

    I still think Vincent Donovan’s “Rediscovering Christianity” might help you find another path to getting on the other side of your monocle.

    Ooh, and another book you should read? “The English poor law 1531 – 1782.


  4. Sally, thank you so much for stopping by and for your always insightful comments. I have put Donovan’s book on preorder, so perhaps I’ll be reading it soon.

    I struggle still to see what you mean about the insider language. I am even struggling to use the words church and Christian. The words I am choosing to use are very different than what I grew up with… those in the past were thrown out without having any concept of the implication or much understanding for what they stood for. Anyway… I shouldn’t get too angsty about all that.

    God does want us to have 6 people right now. That is the difficult thing. It is so tough to be okay with that. And yet… it is my total desire to really respond to those that show up in my path. God has made me a person who wants to heap value on people. One evening can change someone’s life… So if it 6 or 10 or 55, I am going to make sure those people feel value. But there is always at least one.

    I am thankful for your insight all these years. Please don’t stop. You are helping me see more clearly. Much love.


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