Do We Confuse New Believers With These ‘Churchy’ Phrases?

I recently shared my testimony of the 12-year-old classmate who led me to the Lord in seventh grade. What I thought about most, though (and I’m not even sure why I did), was just how little I knew about Christianity and church at the time. Everything was new to me.

It seems almost silly now, but here are some things/words/phrases I did not understand when I first heard the gospel and followed Jesus. These thoughts remind me that still today, we’re trying to reach people who might know even less than I did at the time. We need to keep that reality in mind as we evangelize and disciple.

  1. “Ask Jesus into your heart.” I had no idea what that meant, and I had even less an idea how to do it until the man I later learned was the church pastor helped me.
  2. “Old Testament” and “New Testament.” Nobody told me what a testament was. Nor did anybody tell me why one was old and one was new (even though I figured out it wasn’t really new . . .).
  3. “Invocation” and “benediction.” I saw the words on the bulletin (though, I didn’t actually know it was called a bulletin then), but I didn’t know what they meant. All I knew was that one was at the beginning of the service and the other at the end.
  4. “Redeemer/Savior/Lord.” Whatever the titles were, I didn’t fully know what they meant. I just knew they referred to Jesus in some way.
  5. “Hymnal.” I figured out it was a songbook, but only because I saw everyone else grab one as we started singing. In fact, much of my learning was only replicating what I saw others do.
  6. “Tithes and offerings.” It didn’t take me long to figure out these words had something to do with giving money, but it was years, actually, before I understood that some people differentiate between the two words.
  7. “Right hand of fellowship.” If I’m honest, I’m still not entirely sure what that phrase meant—but I realized it had something to do with shaking hands (even if we introverts didn’t really want to do that . . . ).
  8. “Call to ministry.” The only reason I learned this phrase was because I’m convinced I supernaturally sensed God’s speaking to me about ministry the day He saved me—and I had to talk with someone to figure out what in the world was happening.
  9. “Amen.” I heard people say it at the end of prayers. And, I heard some preachers ask the people in the church if they thought they should say it, too—and some did with an enthusiasm I didn’t understand. I’m not sure anyone ever taught me what the word “amen” means.
  10. “Repent.” The best I knew was that I was doing some things that made me feel guilty, and I was suppposed to do something about that. Sunday school teachers and preachers told us to “repent,” but few taught us anything other than “turn the other way.” I needed more understanding than that.
  11. “Fellowship dinner.” I’d never heard of it, but I quickly learned to enjoy these meals when churches come together and eat more than they ever should—and certainly more than many people around the world eat in a day.
  12. “Washed in the blood.” We sang the words, but that doesn’t mean I understood them at the time. I’m sure I even repeated them to others because that’s the language we were supposed to use.

This list is now almost 50 years old. What words or phrases would you add to the list today?

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This article originally appeared on and is reposted here by permission.

Chuck Lawless
Chuck Lawless

Chuck Lawless is dean and vice president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, and global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.