When talking to non-believers, make an effort to find fresh and clear ways of communicating common Christian concepts. Instead of inviting people to put their “faith” in Christ, ask them to put their “trust” in him. Instead of “theology,” try “Christian convictions.” Instead of warning them, “You’re going to be judged for your sins,” say, “You’ll be punished for your crimes.” Almost any Christianese term can be replaced with a clearer equivalent.
Commercial airplanes are extremely safe these days. Still, sending 100,000 lbs. of metal into the atmosphere at 600 mph demands attention to safety. But when a flight attendant starts the safety briefing, I ignore it. All I hear is, “Blah blah blah blah.” I’m not the only one. People put on noise-canceling headphones, turn to chat with their neighbor, or scroll through their social media feed. Why? Isn’t the safety briefing full of vital information? Wouldn’t heeding its advice potentially save your life in an emergency? Yes. Then why does no one pay attention?
People have heard it before. They think they know it. Honestly, nobody cares.
That’s why many airlines today have developed a new approach to keep passengers’ attention. Turkish Airlines hired famous YouTube personality and digital magic artist Zach King. Their safety video includes Zach performing illusions to keep passengers engaged. British Airways adds comedy by incorporating Mr. Bean into their video. Korean Air features the Korean pop sensation, BTS. Air New Zealand uses characters from The Hobbit. Airlines have learned how to keep people’s attention focused on the important safety information they want to convey to their passengers. They’ve learned their lesson, but have Christians?
Believers face a similar problem. We try to tell non-Christians valuable truths about the Christian faith: “Jesus died for your sins. Put your faith in him. He, alone, is holy.” All that non-Christians hear is, “Blah blah blah blah.” Unlike on an airplane, they’re at least looking at you. They’re still not understanding what you’re saying, though. Why? You’re speaking Christianese. It’s parlance they’re unfamiliar with.
Christianese is the language Christians speak at church and to other Christians. It has two characteristics. One, it’s churchy. It contains theologically loaded lingo that is understandable to Christians but largely incoherent to non-Christians.