“The Fall” and Other Christian-ese
By Philip Nation
You are embarking on a session that might be quite familiar to you. It deals with the tragic story of sin entering our world. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve listen to the Devil, doubt God’s goodness, and commit the first sin. It initiates the chaos we now encounter through our own sinful nature and the brokenness of the world.
As you lead your group this week, I want to throw out a caution that you keep in mind every week. Every industry has its own language and vocabulary. Recently, my son Chris was working through some calculus problems and I was harassing him about how easy the work was. After all, isn’t that what good fathers do??? He suddenly began rattling off the description of the solution he had just written down. It made my mind spin or shut down. I’m not sure but I do think I blacked out for a moment. When he was done, I did not understand the problem; much less the solution. The vocabulary he used was completely unfamiliar to me.
The same can be true of our Christian-ese. The Bible and Christian doctrine present words that are not used in normal conversations. It does not make the language unnecessary. Rather, it simply means that we need to define our terms well.
For example, this week you will discuss “the Fall.” If you’ve been in church for a long time, it is likely that “the Fall” is familiar. However, if a person is visiting church for the first time, they have no idea what it means. The same is likely true for words like redeem (something most do with a coupon) or justify (what the world does to excuse their poor behavior). As the leader, you know what you mean. Many of your group will know what you mean. I want you to keep in mind those who are just learning. Never assume that everyone in the group is on the same page. In fact, assume the opposite until you know for sure.
Dr. Philip Nation is the Content Development Director for Lifeway Christian Resources and the Teaching Pastor for The Fellowship, a multisite church in Nashville, TN.
Don Norris says
This past week I spoke with a missionary couple that serve in a predominantly Muslim area. They came to realize that the word “sin” just didn’t carry the weight of importance among the Muslims they were serving as it did for them. They knew they needed to change their terminology in order to better connect with them. They struggled to find a better word to use in speaking to a Muslim about “sin.” Soon they realized the word “shame” was a word of significance in the Muslim mind. They changed their terminology to better connect. As you clearly point out, the burden to “define our words well” rest upon the believer especially when it comes to presenting the Gospel to another.