Yes, it is time for our update to the Christianese Dictionary

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 the 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 pressured 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. Also, those on low-carb 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 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.

Follow and Support Me on Patreon

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. “Put to death the old man”: This does not mean that we practice reverse infanticide. It means we are to mortify/kill our old way of life controlled by the sinful flesh. But, to be honest, no Christian (including Paul) has been able to complete this. Why? The prevailing theory is that we see a loophole in that one of the Ten Commandments is that we are not to murder. This would make such actions as putting to death the old man a contradiction since we would have to access the old man to kill the old man and put on the new man. Another theory, just as possible, is that the “old man” is just too much fun to kill.

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 with 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 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 the 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 keyword “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. It’s 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 munchies that are involved.

Learn to Defend the Christian Faith

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 sermons 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 your car: Hardcore evangelism.

34. Donald Trump: Seated at Christ’s right hand.

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 anti-social behavior within their daughters in hopes that they will never meet anyone of the male species.

39. “God bless them”: A free ticket to gossip. Just add this to the end of any sentence when gossiping and the sin of gossip is immediately neutralized. Some examples: “Did you know that the Thompsons may be getting a divorce, God bless them.” Or, “I think Katie is sleeping around, God bless her.”

40. “I’ll pray for you”: Translation: “You suck and need help.”

41. “Washed in the Blood of the Lamb”: I can’t emphasize this enough: Christians do not, I repeat, do not take either baths or showers using Mary’s little lamb for either water or soap.  I mean, we do use Mary’s little lamb, but he grew up and, as it turns out, he wasn’t a Lamb at all. It was Jesus. You might hear him called “The Lamb of God.” So Jesus = Lamb. So far so good?  Concerning the blood of Jesus. This simply refers to his death on the cross which we believe to be responsible for us being “born again” (see next phrase). But all Christians, except for Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox (i.e., ahem, the majority of us) do not believe we have any contact whatsoever with the actual blood of Jesus. That is just gross.

42. “Have you been born again”: This is a question you will get asked by many Christians (especially Baptists). Don’t be confused. They are not saying your skin looks young and they are not calling you a crybaby. To be “born again” simply means that you have trusted in what Christ did on the cross for salvation. You may say, “Why not just ask if I am a Christian?” Good questions. To be a born-again Christian simply means are you really Christian. This is how the conversation may go:

Christian: “Excuse me, can I ask you a question?”

You: Why, yes.

Christian: Are you a Christian?

You: Yes I am.

Christian: But are you a born-again Christian?


The Christian will then proceed to take you through the Four Spiritual Laws (See next)

43. The Four Spiritual Laws: If you were to ask a Christian how to become a Christian, they will begin to reach for their pocket. Don’t get scared. They are only seeking to retrieve a little cheat booklet that will help them answer your question (think Joe Biden). It will guide them through the processes. If they cannot find said booklet, you may have to burn in hell as everyone knows it is impossible to memorize these four little phrases of the Gospel: 1) God loves you, 2) You are bad, 3) Jesus died for you, 4) Trust in him and you will be saved. (Glad I had my FSL booklet!)

44. “Speak into your life”: No, Christians do not call microphones “into your life.” Don’t worry about that. This is simply another way to have uncanny knowledge about someone so as to encourage them and shape their direction. Only God can give the encourager such insight.

45. “Lay hand on”: This is nothing like the phrase “I didn’t lay my hand on you” or the like. It has nothing to do with violence. When Christians want to lay their hands on you, it simply means that they want to pray for you. Not only is it prayer, but a special pray that God only grants if one Christian is touch another either on the shoulder or the head. Studies show that the head is better than the shoulder, but normally this can only be accomplished by clergy.

46. “Led by the Spirit”: This is not the Christian version of Google Maps. In fact, there is not even an app for this at all. To be led by the Spirit means that you are being chaperoned by none other than the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

47. “I’m going to pray over this”: I’m not going to do it.

48. “Gift of Singleness”: this is an early interpolation into Christian theology. People felt so sorry for those who could not get a spouse, they just told them they have the “gift of singleness” given to them by the Holy Spirit.

49. “God moves in mysterious ways”: I have no idea how to encourage you in this pitiful situation.

50. “Been praying for you”: Translation: “I totally forgot to pray for you so while you were walking up I said two lightening fast generic prayers so as I could use this phrase and not be lying.”

Your turn. Please aid those who are lost in Christianese.


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

    3 replies to "Your Guide to Interpreting Christianese"

    • scot glasco

      This reminds me of the MAD magazines of my youth. Or as a Th M student (What was the Comic relief mag at DTS that poked at Theology?) “Good medicine for the soul. ” Yep, sounds like a “christian pharmaceutical vaccination opportunity.

    • […] In general, if you wouldn’t hear a secular person use it in a coffee shop in exactly the same way, steer clear unless you can gently, easily define the word and make it work for you. This includes words like “grace” (work with me here—this means something different to Catholics or to a dancer), “a joy,” “blessed,” “do life,” “the Word,” etc. (here’s a list of 50). […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.