If you’re not part of the Holy Huddle, you’d be forgiven for thinking that ‘Evange’ is a slightly dingy club in Middlesborough (where rumour has it, PTL can be caught off a loo seat).
Luckily I grew up in a Christian home (and even did a church internship) so am qualified to tell you that the above phrase can be translated as ‘Praise the Lord for fruitful evangelism’.
This kind of Christo-abrev-cringe is clearly awful but even my accurate translation stands to mystify the uninitiated.
As seeker-friendly (see, I did it again) as we all try to be, Christian jargon slips under the inclusivity radar all the time.
Even if you avoid 21st century Jesus slang, our church and prayer life is still peppered with phrases like ‘anointed worship’, ‘lifting up in prayer’, or ‘coming before God’; references that come from the Bible, or are inherited from doctrine or liturgy.
So what’s the answer? Slash and burn years of our rich prophetic, scriptural, linguistic heritage? We could, but I suspect that’s part of the problem.
Like many other young charismatic evangelicals, I grew up in youth ministries that rejected much of the traditional church language but, in my experience, that left us saturated in new jargon. They’re like grey hairs, if you pluck out the old ones, new ones sprout up in their place. That’s when we were left with the ‘sisterhood’, ‘the people you do life with’ and the dreaded ‘evange’.
We’re supposed to be distinctive in our speech, so what’s the problem?
I was recently praying for a man who I’d met on the street. He hadn’t met me before and had little experience of church. After I’d prayed for him he said: ‘Wow, that was beautiful, I could never do that, you’re really good at praying’. As much as I tried to backtrack, to tell him that God didn’t just speak middle-class…that he could talk to God with whichever words he had, the damage was done. By making my language inaccessible, I had made my God seem inaccessible.
My vocal elitism was miles away from the New Testament’s common (Koine) Greek. This every-day gospel told through sheep and coins and farming, made the good news of the Kingdom accessible to fishermen, scribes, Jews, Gentiles, slaves and women which meant the early church was packed full of the undereducated and underrepresented.
The problem is not our using the Bible, liturgy, doctrine or faith slang too much in our conversation and worship, but to what end we use it. These things can enrich our conversation with God and each other, but often the way I use, and hear those words used, are from habit or convention.
Or worse, we over-use our faith lexicon because it is our entry pass into church society, a badge of belonging, a sign that you’re been to a few prayer meetings before and know the words you are supposed to use.
I can see the problem but I’m not sure I know what the answer is. Language is created and lost organically so how can we, as the Church, affect inclusivity authentically?