I hate to use this blog as a place to rant but I can’t help myself this time. This past week I helped lead our annual kid’s camp for a week of fun, sun and Jesus. The camp is really very cool though the rooms were outdated and the food was horrid, but overall it was a good camp. The issue I had was that throughout the staff’s effort to present the Gospel to the kids I kept wondering to myself “what audience are they are speaking to?”
I liked everyone who was on stage and I thought the camp pastor for the week was a pretty good young speaker but I was cringing at the amount of Christian-ese that he was using in his sermons.
Christian-ese in my definition are words and phrases that have been incorporated, learned and spoken by Christians and the culture of Christianity as the topics of God, Jesus, the Bible and faith are discussed. Christian-ese is its own language and like any language is only understood by the people native to the culture and those who pick it up while in the presence of those who speak it. It’s only through hearing the words in the context for which they are meant do people start understanding what it is they are saying.
A good example might be - “Today I’m going to proclaim the Gospel…the same Gospel that can deliver you from your sin through the sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary. If you confess your sins and accept Christ as your Lord and savior, you too will be born-again and made holy and righteous in the eyes of the lord.” ----Sigh! For us Christian’s we might be able to decipher this but for the rest of the world AND KIDS we basically spoke gibberish!
A better statement for kids and the rest of the world might be: “Today I’m going to share with you the good news about how we can have an amazing relationship or forever friendship with God and at the same time make sure someday when we die that we will go to heaven. This is all possible because God’s perfect son Jesus was willing to take our punishment for all of the bad things we do that prevent us from being near God. Because Jesus did this, God forgave us and all we have to do is Step 1) tell God the bad things that you have done, say that you are sorry and do your best to not do them again, Step 2) Truly believe with all of your heart that Jesus died for you and then three days later came alive again to show his power over death and Step 3) make a choice to make him your boss or leader and person you will follow the rest of your life. If you do that then you will become part of God’s family you too can call yourself a Christian.
When the kids ask the obvious questions like how he died then you can share that the cross was chosen form of punishment of the Romans who were in charge of the area where Jesus lived. It’s ok to tell them how awful and cruel it was. It helps make Jesus’s sacrifice that much more significant. There are other questions kids ask and I try to answer them with words that are commonly used or at least recognizable. I think kids and adults appreciate it when the Gospel is shared in the same language that they speak.
For the sake of wrapping up this blog post, I just wanted to say that I certainly don’t diminish the efforts of the camp pastor and the camp staff. I truly saw that their hearts were truly passionate about what they were doing and what they were preaching. I do however, think that when they get together and discuss how they plan on presenting the gospel they should take a moment and consider their words. They are powerful if they are understood!