Yes, we keep adding to them!

1. “Heads bowed, eyes closed . . .”: During a church service, you may hear a preacher abruptly break into this unexpected dialogue with the audience: “Heads bowed, eyes closed. If you have accepted Christ into your heart [more later], I want you to raise your hand.” Don’t get scared. Nothing bad is going to happen to you. It is not a fancy way to steal your money or pull anything sneaky. It is the preacher’s way of helping the uncomfortable seeker feel more at ease about accepting Christ. It is best if you just follow instructions here.

2. “Into the Word”: This is a portion of an important phrase that may be communicated by seasoned Christians in many different contexts. It always has reference to the Bible. Yes, I know, the Bible is more than one word, in fact it is thousands, but once you are a Christian, it becomes singular and has a definite article, “the,” attached to it. If you hear someone say, “Are you in the Word?,” this is another way of saying, “You need to read the Bible if you are going to be spiritual like me.” IMPORTANT: This has no relation to the phrases, “Word to your mother,” “Word up,” or just plain “Word.”

3. Backslidden: This has no reference to the past event of sliding down a hill on your back. It is used to refer to those Christians who are now suspect in their original confession due to their current participation in a particular sin.

4. “Ask Jesus into your heart”: Although there is nowhere in Scripture that people are commanded to ask Jesus into their heart, this has become the primary means by which Evangelicals believe a person becomes a Christian. Don’t be scared here. Heart surgery, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular exercise (or lack thereof) have no bearing on Christ’s presence in your heart. He does not actually live there.

5. Soul Winning: Please understand, this  is not a game. It is the act whereby one person tells another about Christ and the person believes, thereby having their souls “saved” (i.e. “won”). I know that normally if there are winners, you would think there are losers, but not in Soul Winning. Everyone wins in this game (except the lost).

6. “I see that hand . . .”: This is related to #1. The pastor has just asked for raised hands while everyone’s heads are bowed and eyes closed. “I see that hand” can mean one of two things: 1) Someone is indicating that they have accepted Jesus by raising their hand. 2) The pastor is acting like someone has to be more heroic and finance the new building. VERY IMPORTANT: Avoid any temptation to look for the hand when the pastor says “I see that hand.” Although science is inconclusive, we are not sure if you looking for the hand raised has any bearing on the effectiveness of the salvation process. It is best to be safe and avoid giving in to this temptation. To be very spiritual, just thank the Lord for that person and pray that they become a Calvinist.

7. Contemporary Christian Music: Avoid at all costs. Yes, many of your Christian friends will act as if they like it. Musicians, sociologists, and psychologists are perplexed as to the reasons why. We believe it is due to the pressured environment of the Christian community for Christians to do all things Christian, but this has no bearing on your salvation. Please, don’t feel pressure to like it.

8. Christian Movies: See “Contemporary Christian Music.”

9. Baptism: The spiritual act of going under water. Yeah, I know, most people don’t understand it, but you must do it anyway. Oh, also, someone else has to push, drop, or lower you; otherwise, it is ineffective.

10. “Blessed”: This word must take the place of many words, but the most important replacement is with the word “luck.” Super-spiritual Christians (SSC) will often be offended and pugnaciously correct you if you ever say, “Good luck.” Even if you are just using it as a casual phrase with the best of intentions, the SSC will see it as an opportunity to correct you and show you how Christian they are compared to you by saying “I don’t believe in luck, only God’s blessings.” When you have someone correct you, its best to just act as if you have learned something and then be on your way.

11. The Water that Jesus Turned into Wine was Diluted to a Watery Grape juice: Although there is no biblical, historic, or cultural evidence to suggest it, you must believe that Christ did not turn the water into wine, but into watery grape juice. This is a cardinal doctrine.

12. Lord’s Table (Baptist): It goes by many other names, but this represents the time when you eat a really small cracker and a small cup of grape juice and afterwords are more spiritual because of it. Think mystery. It is very important to know that this is not the church providing lunch. As well, those who are on the Atkins diet cannot become Christian because of the high carbs in both the juice and cracker.

For Baptists: don’t be surprised if the cracker, due to its small size, gets lost in your mouth after one slight chew. Unswallowed, it may be lost between your teeth for the rest of the day. While this might seem sinful, it is acceptable for all but Catholics who believe that Christ himself is stuck in your mouth.

Lord’s Table (Presbyterian/Anglican/Methodist/Catholic): Free booze.

13. Public Prayer: You will often find yourself in a situation where others are praying and you don’t know what to do. As a general rule, you should remain quiet and attempt to pray with them. If your mind drifts just try to make a quiet, yet slightly audible, sounds like “um” (not “ummmm”), “yes Lord,” and “amen.” They may be completely out of context, but you will still be better off. This is very well accepted.

14. God D*%n: The only phrase that you can use that will immediately let others know that you are not a Christian and the only exception to the once-saved-always-saved doctrine (despite the fact that it is not really taking God’s name in vain).

15. “Jesus”: This is an acceptable answer to pretty much every question in the Christian community. For example: Who is God? Jesus. Why are you alive? Jesus. Why are we here? Jesus. What website were you looking at? Jesus. What did you learn about today? Jesus. What is your favorite music? Jesus. What book are you reading? Jesus. Why don’t you want to go to _________ with me? Jesus. What planet is that? Jesus. It always works.

16. “Jesus!”: Bad word, see # 14.

17. Rush Limbaugh: This is the only person in existence who has not asked Jesus into their heart but is nonetheless going to heaven.

18. Raising hands during worship: Be very careful with this. The first thing you need to know is that this is not the way to ask a question during church service, but a way to worship. Churches are not in agreement about its validity. Some churches allow the “Full throttle” (raising hands above your head either with hands spread or index finger pointed), but some places only allow the “Governor” (hands raised to chest high position). Some churches will see any extension of hands as a sign of self-promotion and you will be asked to leave. The best approach is to ask the usher while being seated.

19. Quiet time: Please note, this has no relation to “time out.” In fact, it could be just the opposite. All Christians are expected to have “quiet time.” It is at this time that you renew your relationship to God through prayer and Bible study. The longer the better. If you do this first thing in the morning, people will count you blessed.

20. The gentle hand squeeze at the end of a prayer: While this is not a phrase or word that you need to know, it is a practice that might get you caught off guard if you are not aware of implications. It will come at the end of a prayer in which hands are being held. It is a gentle squeeze as the prayer says “amen” or immediately after it. Either is acceptable. It means, in essence, “I love you and we are in this together. So hang in there and call on me if you ever need anything.”

21. Short-term Missions: Short-term missions are a part of the Christian’s life. Please note that if you go on a short-term mission, there is a universal pattern of experience. 1) Fear: Going to another country is frightening. 2) Excitement: The Lord has personally arranged for this trip and has someone for you to meet. 3) Shock: this is the initial disturbance that Americans have to the poverty and needs of the visited area. 4) Attachment: this represents the love that you have for the people and places you have gone along with the desire to remain. 5) Mourning: this is the time when you have to leave. Expect a lot of wailing and crying. 6) Telling: this is where you fruitlessly try to explain everything that happened and every emotion you felt to everyone you meet. 7) Judging: This is where you look down upon everyone for being so materialistic and not being passionate about the needs of the poor. 8) Adjustment: this happens two weeks after the mission trip and represents the return of self-pity because your neighbor just got a new car and yours has nearly 50,000 miles on it.

22. “Lord, we just pray that…” This phrase should be uttered at least twenty different times throughout a public prayer. It is to show the simplicity of your requests and the humble mood in which they are asked by supplying the key word “just.” Variances such as “We just ask…,” “Lord, we just…,” “Lord we just come before you” or just “just” are also acceptable. As long as it has the word “just” in it, you should be good.

23. “Lord,” “Lord God,” “God,” and “Father God” references in prayer: This is related to the previous, but an important addition to  your understanding of public prayer. While praying, Christians will continually repeat God’s name so as to remind you and themselves to whom they are praying. Therefore, do not be surprised to hear “Lord,” “Lord God,” “Father,” or its popular variation, “Father God” at the beginning of every sentence. It sometimes will even occur multiple times in the same sentence such as the following: “Lord God, we just pray that you will be with us God during our trip God.” Pretty much, the more you say a variation of God’s name, the more spiritual you are.

24. “Hedge of protection”: This is the way to pray for the protection of a loved one. Its the primary Christian defense against demonic forces. No one really knows what a “hedge of protection” is, but everyone knows that Satan does not fair well when its presence is evoked.

25. “Pot Lucks”: Although this may be confusing considering #10, this is the one time in which Christians believe in “luck.” These are Sunday night “fellowship” dinners where everyone brings their favorite dish. Various movements within contemporary Christian history have attempted to change the name of this to “Pot blessed” with no luck. Not only has the designation “luck” been challenged, but many objections have been raised to the use of the word “pot” due to the muchies that are involved.

26. Prayer walks: These serve a double purpose. 1) They help to work off the “pot luck” and 2) they keep Christians awake during prayer. They also have been known to have a geographically positioned spiritual effect upon the tracked area.

27. “Post-Sermon Prayer”: This comes at the end of a sermon or lesson. While this is normally referred to as simply a prayer, it has a life of its own, serving primarily as an extended summary of the sermon you just heard, sometimes with additional points or applications the preacher didn’t think of during preparation.

28. “Worship”: Singing

29. “Amen”: The way to give a sense of approval to the pastor concerning his teaching. It is another way of saying, “I already agree with what you are preaching, therefore it is approved. Preach on.” Preachers who do not receive “amens” during their sermon begin to question their calling, so use them liberally.

30. “Anti-Christ”: Obama

31. “Fall Festival”: Halloween

32. Vacation Bible School: Free summertime babysitting for parents.

33. Fish symbols on the back of your car: Hard core evangelism.

34. Glen Beck: The only Mormon who is getting a special dispensation to go to heaven.

35.If it be God’s Will”: A spiritual sounding addition to prayer. It indicates that you don’t really think God is going to answer your prayer. Use this phrase a lot, it’ll save you a lot of disappointment.

36. Rebaptism: “This time I really mean it.”

37. Beer. Depending on where you live, beer is either representative of your freedom in Christ and solidarity with Martin Luther or your identification of your reservation in hell. So be careful.

38. Home Schooling. Publicly: Better education. Privately: The Christian fathers’ attempt to instill an anti-social behavior within their daughters in hopes that they will never meet anyone of the male species.

Your turn. Help out the beginner to Christianity.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    41 replies to "The Beginners Guide to Christianity – Thirty-Eight Things You Need to Know Right Now!"

    • Delwyn X. Campbell

      Regarding CCM, I understand your pain, but if you spent a day listening to Gospel music, you would change your tune! Between Fred Hammond, Kirk Franklin, Tye Tribbett, and a few choirs, I bet you’d find that “gettin’ yo’ praize on” is great fun, as well as a great way to increase your heart rate!

      Write me, and I’ll send you a music list to get started on 🙂

    • Michael T.

      ROFL on #38. Soooo true in the town I grew up in. All marriages in those families were practically arranged marriages.

    • HornSpiel

      Fellowship: What we suffer through Church for.

      Announcements: Schedule of fellowship opportunities.

    • […] to be a clone In a stroke of good luck (sorry, blessing), Michael Patton published a list of rules all new Christians must follow. It is a very useful follow-up on my post on Christian clones. (And, yes, it is tongue-in-cheek […]

    • Johnfom

      I always thought #20 (The gentle hand squeeze at the end of a prayer) meant ‘ let go of my hand now so people don’t think we’re in a romantic relationship’. Particularly if the person sitting next to you during the prayer is of the same sex.

    • Abby

      How long have you been working on this guide?
      I laughed out loud, but a part of me started crying because it is so true. Thank you.

    • Lynn

      Reading this makes me angry_not at you or any person-but toward the whole faith world. I’m a serious person-born that way. I took all these phrases to be serious. I honestly believed they were holy.

      I see them now for what they were-holy-sounding phrases that people slowly learn are not holy, just codewords. It makes me feel betrayed. I took them as signs that God was real, Jesus was real, the Holy Spirit was real, etc. That Christians really were different from the unsaved.

      I see from this that Christians themselves-at least the ones who’ve been in it for years-aren’t as naive as they once were. They see that it’s a fake game. They want to continue playing it, so they play along. But they are ADULTS with BRAINS, so they see how things really are.

      I’m just speaking for myself and many others who feel taken. Like they’ve been the victim of a huge con.

      It’s like in a dysfunctional family. Everybody knows that Mom or Dad is a real jerk. But they all pretend that’s not true, cause they don’t want the whole thing to fall apart. SOME kind of family is better than no family at all. There are many perks to keeping it going. So it’s collusion with a lie.

    • Lynn

      And just to add-along with my seriousness, I do have a sense of humor. I can go to a site like “stuff fundies like” and recognize it all and laugh about it. But there IS the other side of things too-which I’ve said above.

      And, Michael, I think it’s a good thing that you are honest. Honesty is a wonderful trait. I know you are a Christian still, but I very much appreciate your openness. It helps those who have issues because of their Christian background to realize that there is not something wrong with them-they aren’t crazy for the confusion they felt while in it.

      And whether I was ever truly saved, not saved, whatever-I spent my whole life in this world and along with all the nice stuff-it DID cause harm. And I’m not the only victim out there.

    • Lynn

      And just to clarify-your list here didn’t make me suddenly see this. I figured it out gradually just like ya’ll did. I’ve read similar lists.

    • Trevor M. Williams

      It’s funny that you talked about all the stuff we notice but never talk about. I laughed at the sweezing at the end of the player. I’ve been careful of doing the “Lord God” in prayer, example: “Most Gracious and Holy God of all Creation we just thank you for…” We’ve heard this too often in our ministries. I just love the hilarious spin on this. Great observation.

    • J.R.

      “God is stirring us” – It means something new is going to be tried and no, you’re not going to get dizzy.

      “Feet to our prayers” – Not really but it goes with Prayer Walking. One day we hope to put wings to our prayers so as to cover a larger geographical area.

      “Men’s breakfast” – Usually Saturday mornings and interfere with an early tee time. I’m sorry but women are not allowed.

      “Serving” – Usually done at 4th of July celebrations, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Not to be confused with military service, tennis, or serving a summons.

    • Skywalker

      Poor Richard’s Almanack – Most people don’t realize it’s actually the 67th book of the Bible. From it we gain such oft-quoted verses as “haste makes waste,” “neither a borrower nor a lender be,” and the classic potluck motto, “the Lord helps those that help themselves.”

    • Carl D'Agostino

      Re #9 You need to know: Baptism. Well I gotta tell ya, they put me under water alright in that divorce in 1984. And it sure didn’t get me cleansed or saved. Well it did get me cleansed of all my money. And it has taken me until recent years to get resurrected.

    • Steve

      Michael, you might also help new Christians understand the word “FELLOWSHIP.” Coming out of the world at age 27 (as a professional musician) I suddenly began to hear about “Fellowship”. I knew what “hanging out together” was but not the word “fellowship.” LOL

    • Richard

      Trying to help new Christians:

      The word “just” becomes holy when used in prayer. When you pressured into praying out-loud in community, use the word “just” as often as possible—as in “I just want you to thank you, Lord for…”

    • Ed Kratz

      Richard, that is great. But look at #22.

    • Richard

      Sorry, Michael, for my oversight of #22 (better said than my comment!) and my unedited English. I just pray that God will just use P&P, your comments, and all of RMM’s ministies, to reach non-Christians and new Christians (ok…all Christians) with the truth that authenticity is just the very heart of Christianity. What oxygen you just always bring to me! Very seriously!

    • hmkjr

      “Travelling mercies”

    • hmkjr

      How about the unspoken “assigned seating” and the stares the visitors got when they sat in someones spot. You’d have 2 people in the middle of a pew that seated a family of eight!

    • Martin Massinger

      Mixed Swimming (sometimes called mixed bathing): This had nothing to do with a bathtub, but in certain groups it was a sure sign you were “worldly.” As a teenage boy I discovered that by becoming a life-guard I got to watch the girls swim anyway!

    • hmkjr

      What about the “opera singing” men that always look like they are going to pass out they turn so red in the face.

    • hmkjr

      You never forget that one time someone made the green bean casserole that tasted so bad they asked at the next pot luck for people to label their food so they could thank and appreciate the person that brought in the dish and consequently avoid it next time

    • Sean

      Number 23 is so true. Sometimes I’m tempted to count how many Lords or Fathers a person can fit into one sentence during prayer. I guess saying, “ummm” isn’t spiritual enough.

      Note to Lynn: So sorry you feel betrayed by cultural Christianity. I didn’t grow up in the church and see the lack of understanding that those who did have of the true good news (gospel). It is not the parody that modern American churchianity has made it. God is real. He is your creator. He is holy. He demands holiness of you. You cannot be holy because you are fallen. Christ is holy. Christ died on your behalf. If you understand that you are fallen and have no hope of holiness outside of Christ you are half way home. Cry out to Christ for mercy and he will save you…completely. Being in church doesn’t make you a Christian. Being saved by God’s grace through Christ makes you a Christian.

      Can I add, “Praying for you…” to the list?

    • DennisS

      Altar Call. This is not the time to get out your cellphone to call in your vote, nor to order your food for communion. This is the chance for you to come up front for special prayer, or to “receive Christ”. It is the chance for the band to play “Just as I Am” in a progression of 5 different keys, and a chance for the pastor to practice his begging skills. This is related to #1, except someone must come up front before there can be a final prayer and the rest of the people can then be allowed to leave.

    • DennisS

      BTW – our church has “covered dish dinners”, after deciding “pot faith” didn’t have much of a ring to it. We are too mainline, and not conservative enough to have most of these present in our services – especially raising of hands, or even holding hands such that we would know about the squeeze. Despite posting about “Altar calls”, our congregation calls it a Communion Table, and we are too frozen to push anyone to have a “come to Jesus” moment. Amen is only heard at the end of a prayer – none of the 32 pastors that have served here have heard it during a sermon…

    • EP

      24. “Where God guides, He provides” usually used to disparage other churches’ “wordly money-raising” tactics. Interesting though how many of them who say this later “Christianize” clothing and everything else that may fit on the body for sale.

      25. The Republican party is now part of the live of David.

      26. The “Great Commision” from our Lord comes a distant second (if ever talked about) to many churches’ “Missions” or “Visions.”

      27. Nepotism, though disastrous in the Bible, is now a acceptable practice in ministry.

      28. Though Jesus didn’t have “a place to lay his head,” pastors are to be “CEOs” living high above the laity.

      29. Legalism (as used to many living by ANY standard-including those practiced by the Apostles) is evil and the Biblical definition of it (Galatians) is irrelevant. Example, in most SoCal churches, tell anyone you don’t want to live a life of materialism and you’re the devil.

      30. In many nondenomintal churches, Seminaries are evil, spreading heresies. Nevermind most of our doctrines and best Bible commentaries comes from such places and are plagarized by men who speak such nonsense.

    • Bill Trip

      This list pretty much sums up American Christianity in a nutshell
      and why the Church has no influence in the USA.

    • Dale

      Traveling Mercies

    • Skaggers

      39. Invitation:
      The act of the speaker calling people to the front to either accept Christ as there savior or for current believer to get on there knees to show they are really committed to Christ with there prayer. If the pastor calls for believers to come up, it is best that you do or others will doubt your salvation. If your church does not have an invitation, the pastor is not properly “equipping the saints” and the whole church is in danger of etenal hellfire.

    • Ray

      May I suggest:
      Tithes-This where we tip God like we do the waitress at the diner. We have to save money to pay for our bills(meal), but we’ll let Him have the change. If you are a big tipper, people will pretend to admire you, but they will try to avoid you.

      Unspoken”-What I say when they ask for prayer requests and. . .

      My requests are selfish

      My circumstances are embarassing, sinful, or both.

      I can’t think of anything but I don’t want people to feel like I am not humble enough to ask for something.

    • Chuck

      Announcements: Pause in worship designed for a staff member to read what is already in the bulletin.

      Vacation Bible School: Free day care for kids out of school for summer. Careful planning and the whole summer break can be covered.

      Praise Team: Not to be confused with sports team. However, there are similarities: Performers and Spectators.

      Church Organ: Used to be a musical instrument but now is location for flower arrangements.

      Power Point: Original meaning was the preacher pointing into the congregation during a hell, fire, and brimstone sermon. New meaning is words of songs are displayed on a screen so the congregation doesn’t have to use a hymn book.

      True story: After delivering a sermon I asked the church to “bow their hair” and pray. The laughter was a tidal wave. I simply said “amen” and dismissed the congregation.

    • Ricky

      At my church, potlucks are called “Pot Providences”.

    • Richard


      1. I beg you on my knees (Chinese culture) to tell me you’re kidding.
      2. If you’re not kidding, please tell me what church/denomination you belong to. Avoidance is sometimes a safe and wise thing. 🙂 🙂
      3. If you’re REALLY serious, please explain further…and forgive my arrogance!!! Truly.

      Wo ai niem!! Niem (especially Michael 🙂 :), shi wode xin!

    • Richard


      Ohhh…now I get it! Way too slow here. Where do you go to church? I’d love to attend. 🙂 — and laugh with y’all. Thanks for your comment.Ok…off to try and wash off my stupidity! Please don’t tell anyone I sometimes blogg here.

    • Holly

      I laughed a lot at your list. I think it is kind of sad tho. I have a very deep love for the Lord and I felt like some of the comments were sort of disrespectful. In the beginning I thought the comments were a true guide. But I have to admit, I did laugh a lot. I guess there’s never any harm in a good laugh.

    • Glenn Shrom

      Where the Bible says “I want men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without wrath or doubting ….” (something like that) … I’d love to hear a preacher say, “Please raise your heads and hands with me while we pray.”

      Another one we don’t hear too often that is definitely biblical is to greet one another with a holy kiss.

    • […] Michael Patton’s updated, helpful “beginner’s guide” to Christianity. […]

    • […] some reason Michael Patton’s “Beginner’s Guide to Christianity” has left me rolling on the floor. Okay, (crawling back into the chair) here is an excerpt […]

    • Peter B

      Bashing the “if it is God’s will” part of a prayer smacks of Word of Faith preaching.
      People ask that things happen if they’re God’s will because the Bible gels us to (1 John 5:14-15).
      People who drop the “not enough faith” line are those who fail to see that they treat God like a vending machine to get their desires met, and not those who don’t seek to honor God the father, but themselves.

    • Rick

      Have you ever known a Christian who thinks he or she is better than you?
      Here is how their thinking goes:

      God has blessed me and made me better than you because I believe the Bible is true.
      If you believe the Bible is true then you can be just as good as me who really does believe the Bible is true.

      The only question left is: Who is better at faking sincerity?
      Me or you?
      How do you spot this annoying type of Christian? Well it is very easy. When they are praying out loud it sounds more like they are in love with the sound of their own voice than making a real prayer to God . . . LoL!

      P.S. We often wonder who they are trying to convince . . . us or themselves?

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