Ten Cliches Christians Should Never Use

By Christian Piatt via Patheos:

We Christians have a remarkable talent for sticking our feet in our mouths. When searching the words most commonly associated with “Christian,” the list ain’t pretty. I think part of this can be attributed to a handful of phrases that, if stricken from our vocabulary, might make us a little more tolerable. Yes, these things may mean something to you, but trust me, non-Christians don’t share your love for these tried-and-true cliches.

So in no particular order, here are ten phrases Christians should lose with a quickness:

  1. “Everything happens for a reason.” I’ve heard this said more times than I care to. I’m not sure where it came from either, but it’s definitely not in the Bible. The closest thing I can come up with is “To everything, there is a season,” but that’s not exactly the same. The fact is that faith, by definition, is not reasonable. If it could be empirically verified with facts or by using the scientific method, it wouldn’t be faith. It would be a theory. Also, consider how such a pithy phrase sounds to someone who was raped. Do you really mean to tell them there’s a reason that happened? Better to be quiet, listen and if appropriate, mourn alongside them. But don’t dismiss grief or tragedy with such a meaningless phrase.
  2. “If you died today, do you know where you’d spend the rest of eternity?” No, I don’t, and neither do you. So stop asking such a presumptuous question as this that implies you have some insider knowledge that the rest of us don’t. And seriously, if your faith is entirely founded upon the notion of eternal fire insurance, you’re not sharing testimony; you’re peddling propaganda.
  3. “He/she is in a better place.” This may or may not be true. Again, we have no real way of knowing. We may believe it, but to speak with such authority about something we don’t actually know is arrogant. Plus, focusing on the passing of a loved one minimizes the grief of the people they left behind.
  4. “Can I share a little bit about my faith with you?” Too often, Christians presume we have something everyone else needs, without even knowing them first. Ask someone about their story, but maybe not the second you meet them. Christian evangelism often is the equivalent of a randy young teenager trying to get in good with his new girlfriend. When your personal agenda is more important than the humanity of the person you’re talking to, most people can sense the opportunism from a mile a way.
  5. “You should come to church with me on Sunday.” It’s not that we should never invite people to church, but too much of the time, it’s the first thing we do when we encounter someone new. My wife, Amy, and I started a new church eight years ago, founded on the principle of “earning the right to invite.” Invest in people first. Listen to their stories. Learn their passions, their longings, and share the same about yourself. Then, after you’ve actually invested in each other, try suggesting something not related to church to help you connect on a spiritual level. If the person really gets to know you and wants to know more about why you live your life the way you do, they’ll make a point to find out. Then again, if you come off as just another opinionated, opportunistic Christian, why should they honor your predatory approach with a visit to the church that taught you how to act that way in the first place?
  6. “Have you asked Jesus into your heart?” As many times as I’ve heard this, I still don’t really know what it means. why my heart? Why not my liver or kidneys? This also makes Christianity sound like a purely emotional experience, rather than a lifelong practice that can never entirely be realized. But yeah, asking someone if they’re engaged in a lifelong discipline to orient their lives toward Christlike compassion, love and mercy doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it.
  7. “Do you accept Jesus as your personal lord and savior?” Again, this is not in the Bible. Anywhere. And for me, it goes against the whole Christlike notion of the suffering servant. People tried to elevate Jesus to the status of Lord, but he rejected it. So why do we keep trying? Plus, the whole idea of a lord is so antiquated, it has no real relevance to our lives today. Be more mindful of your words, and really mean what you say.
  8. “This could be the end of days.” This is one of my favorites. We Christians love to look for signs of the end of the world; we practically have an apocalyptic fetish. It’s like we can’t wait until everything comes to a smoldering halt so we can stand tall with that “I told you so” look on our faces, while the nonbelievers beg for mercy. Yeah, that sounds like an awesome religion you’ve got going there. Sign me up!
  9. “Jesus died for your sins.” I know, this is an all-time Christian favorite. But even if you buy into the concept of substitutionary atonement (the idea that God set Jesus up as a sacrifice to make good for all the bad stuff we’ve done), this is a abysmal way to introduce your faith to someone. I didn’t ask Jesus to die for me, and if I’m not a Christian, I really have no concept of how that could possibly be a good thing. he whole idea of being washed clean by an innocent man’s blood is enough to give any person nightmares, let alone lead them into a deeper conversation about what Christianity is about.
  10. “Will all our visitors please stand?” If someone finally is brave enough to walk through the doors of your church, the last thing they want is to be singled out. They probably don’t know the songs you’re singing or the prayers or responsive readings you’re reading. Depending on the translation of the Bible you use, the scripture may not make much sense, and they probably have no idea where the bathroom is. So why add to the discomfort by making them stand so everyone can stare at them? Also, calling someone a visitor already implies they are simply passing through, that they’re not a part of things. Instead of “visitor” or “guest,” try something less loaded like “newcomer.” Better yet, walk up to them, introduce yourself and learn their name.

0 thoughts on “Ten Cliches Christians Should Never Use”

  1. Love the motive/ intention/ rationale behind the reasons why (some) Christian cliches shouldn’t be used … point well-taken indeed … yes, the above illutrates the use and abuse of Christian cliches … but some of the reasons above have been mis-articulated …

    “Everything happens for a reason”
    Indeed, *everything* happens for a reason. It is just that the “reason” is not ours, but the Lord’s. (It goes without saying that the Bible is full of such “quotes”). This is also why we confess in the Apostles’ Creed that the God is (the Father) *Almighty.*

    “If you died today, do you know where you’d spend the rest of eternity?”
    Valid question (but obviously not a “must”). The problem is in the tone and demeanour of the chatter, not the content itself. This is what the Gospel is all about – as put in lay-person’s terms and to boot, modern-day/ contemporary “language.”

    “He/she is in a better place”
    Yes, if she/ he is a Christian. Essentially, a Christian is someone who is born again by water and Spirit. This is the meaning of being saved by grace through faith alone. Our *assurance* is not in anything we have done, including our decision to [fill in the cliches] but the Cross of Jesus Christ in the proclamation of the Gospel by Word and Sacraments.

    “Can I share a little bit about my faith with you?”
    Christian Piatt is absolutely right that evangelism is not a project; in evangelism we are indeed dealing with people, persons (“subjects,” not “objects”). There is a need for empathy, sympathy, etc. The question is not problematic so long the questioner is willing to listen and be open-minded. Luther’s thinking of the church as originally “without walls” and thus truly universal is relevant because it means that *all* religions are pale reflections/imitations.

    “You should come to church with me on Sunday”
    Yes, the word, “should” is misleading? inappropriate? The Christian goes to church to receive the absolution (forgiveness of sins), feed on the Body and Blood of the Saviour, hear the Word of God preached … the Christian goes to church because she/ he is a sinner and need the Gospel. In other words, the Christian does not go to church to be a better doctor, banker, corporate lawyer or enjoy 100-fold financial blessings. Some churches like those which practice prosperity gospels like to impose demands on their congregations.

    “Do you accept Jesus as your personal lord and savior?”
    The Protestant Reformation emerged as a “rediscovery” of salvation by grace through faith alone. Luther discovered that it was not he who accepted God but God Who accepted him … God’s acceptance of sinners – on the Cross of Jesus Christ – is *wholly unconditional* – God’s acceptance of *you.* If one is to say “Amen” to that, then there’s nothing else to do but simply *believe* (faith). It does not matter if one is to repent/ believe and believe/ repent first and then only receive the forgiveness of sins OR the other way round (it does not matter if one is baptised as an infant or adult – what matters is the Baptism itself). What matters is when the pastor says I forgive/baptise *you*; the Body broken for *you*/Blood shed for *you.* The proclamation of the Gospel does not end with a question mark but an *exclamation* mark — for you …

    “This could be the end of days”
    It depends on the context, thinking/ belief of the Christian making the statement. False teachings about the end of days abound in the US and here in Malaysia. And false teachings impact on thinking and behaviour in our relationship to the world. The end of times should motivate Christians to be more pro-active and engaging in the service of society. God continues to “uphold” the old creation with the co-operation and participation of His creatures, not least Christians.

    “Jesus died for your sins”
    Normally, the above phrase is “paired” with “Do you accept Jesus as your personal lord and savior?” The statement is OK. But Lutheran pastors do more than that … they don’t just declare as in pointing to a fact; they actually “give,” “hand over” the forgiveness of sins on the Cross of Jesus Christ to sinner … as Luther discovered, the proclamation of the Gospel in preaching and in the Sacraments are not signs pointing to a distant reality but living reality in the here and now … the Word does what it says, and says what it does …

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *