These phrases are at best unhelpful and at worst misleading.
There are a lot of cliché phrases that have become mainstream in American Christian culture. Some of them are great. I’m pretty sure that all of them have good intentions behind them.
But there are some I wish pastors wouldn’t say.
These phrases have become so ingrained in our culture that we say them without thinking about it. But words matter.
We should carefully consider every word that we communicate from the platform.
Some of you will want to pick up your pitchforks and burn me at the stake for daring to suggest that some of these phrases are not the best. Please know that I don’t mean this to mock anyone. I’ve used all of these before. But upon further review, I simply think we can do better.
So here are eight things I wish pastors wouldn’t say.
1. “GOD, PLEASE BE HERE WITH US TODAY.”
Did God go somewhere and not tell us? I’m pretty sure that God is always everywhere all of the time.
He’s already here, even if you don’t feel it.
When we say this phrase, we don’t mean to communicate that God isn’t always present. We mean that we want God to move people’s hearts and minds closer to his.
We want to feel his presence.
We want God to speak through the music and the preaching so that people will hear what God needs them to hear.
That’s great! So why don’t we say that instead?
2. “CHRISTIANITY ISN’T A RELIGION.”
Yes, it is. Christianity is technically classified as a religion.
In universities, people study Christianity alongside other belief systems in world religion classes.
Now I get what you are trying to say. You want to say that it’s more about a relationship with God than a set of rules you follow.
But think about this phrase from an outsider’s perspective. To people who don’t believe in God or who are skeptical of any organized belief system, saying that Christianity isn’t a religion sounds ignorant. Christianity is a religion. I believe it’s the one, true religion, but it’s still a religion. It is faith in a higher power.
Just look up the definition of the word religion.
According to Dictionary.com, a religion is “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”
Then, it even gives an example: “the Christian religion.”
Saying that Christianity isn’t a religion is trying to redefine the word.
I know the phrase, “Christianity isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship” sounds great. All of us preachers love that alliteration. But it’s technically false.
Instead, what if we said, “Christianity is more than just a religion. It’s a relationship”?
3. “CHRISTIANITY ISN’T ABOUT FOLLOWING A SET OF RULES.”
Yes, Christianity isn’t just about following rules.
The beauty of the gospel is that Christ saves us even when we utterly fail at following all of God’s rules.
But there are still rules though.
We can’t just skip over the difficult commandments throughout the Old and New Testament like they don’t exist. The moral “rules” in the Bible are kind of a big deal.
So yes, the point of Christianity is not just about following all of the rules. But if we love God, we will obey him and follow his commandments as best as we can (John 14:15; 1 John 5:2–3; 2 John 1:6).
We’ll fall short. We’ll fall short a lot. But we must be careful that we don’t communicate a form of antinomianism, where all of God’s commandments and moral law get thrown away.
So while saying that Christianity isn’t about following a set of rules isn’t false, I’d recommend that you proceed with caution.
If you say this, please make sure that you explain what you mean.
4. “AT _____ CHURCH, WE ARE GOING TO REACH THE WORLD.”
Statistically speaking, most churches aren’t even reaching their neighborhood.
So it’s kind of odd to hear most of them say that their specific congregation is “reaching the world for Jesus.”
The church universal will reach the world, but not just your church.
God’s redemptive plan is far broader than any lone congregation. Teach people to think bigger about the church than just your brand of gathering.
5. “NOTICE THE EXCLAMATION POINT IN THIS VERSE. IT’S THERE BECAUSE …”
This one bothers me a little because that exclamation point is not in the original text.
Exclamation points don’t exist in the original manuscripts.
To anyone who knows this, you sound like an amateur. And you are misleading anyone who doesn’t know this.
These were translation decisions made by some very brilliant, God-seeking scholars. But we should be careful to make something like an exclamation point that isn’t in the original text the focal point of our message.
6. “MY SMOKIN’ HOT WIFE”
I love that you love your wife and find her attractive, but talk about how beautiful she is on the inside too.
Praise her godly character, not just her looks.
I don’t want my daughter growing up hearing you imply that attractiveness is all that matters in a woman. She gets too much of that from the rest of the world.
Also, I’ve noticed a theme of a lot of pastors boasting a little about their healthy sex lives. Please, stop talking about how much you and your wife have sex.
Unless you’re preaching about sex, and it adds to the point of the message, we don’t need or want to hear about it.
7. “GOD TOLD ME …”
Unless God truly spoke to you in an undeniable way, walk this phrase back. Don’t put words into God’s mouth that he did not say.
Don’t take God’s name in vain (Ex. 20:7). If you didn’t undeniably hear a message from God, explain why you feel like God did speak.
Maybe say, “Deep in my soul, I felt like God was saying to me …” or “I was reading my Bible and this verse jumped out at me, and I felt like God wanted me to know …” or “I was praying when this thought popped into my head, and I’m pretty sure it was from God.”
God still speaks today, and we should be listening. Most often, he speaks through his Word. But be careful about putting words into his mouth if you aren’t 100% certain that he spoke those words to you.
The Bible does not have very nice things to say about false prophets. So don’t be one.
8. “BE USED BY GOD.”
As with all of these phrases, the intention of being “used by God” is good. We mean that God will direct your life to accomplish his mission. And that’s a beautiful thing.
We should all want to align our life and purpose with God to accomplish as much for him as he would allow.
But today, being “used” sounds like abuse. If I were to say that my boss, friend, wife or father used me, it has a negative connotation.
Using someone implies that they are treated more like an object than a person. We should use things and love people. We shouldn’t use people.
So maybe we should reconsider the phrasing of God using you.
God doesn’t use you. He leads you, loves you, cares for you, provides for you, protects you, guides you, shelters you, restores you, heals you, saves you, disciplines you and fights for you.
He doesn’t use you. He works through you and for you.
The Christian life is not emptying yourself to be like a tool that gets used, but a divine relationship that guides your steps and transforms you to be more like God. Do you see the difference?
This article originally appeared on ProPreacher.com and is reposted here by permission.