Tag Archives: christian lingo

Let go and let God? [False ideas Christians believe about…God’s involvement in our lives. Part 4]

21 Mar

I would like to recommend that you not say the following to people going through pain: Let go and let God.

This is popularized in Carrie Underwood’s song, “Jesus Take The Wheel.” 

Before I explain why this might not be a helpful statement, it is important to note that there is much to commend about “Let go and let God.”   Especially the idea of relinquishment, which is encapsulated in the common Christian sentiment: “Lord, have your way in my life.” 

Furthermore, this idea is biblical! My favorite expression of relinquishment is found in John 15:1-4.  There Jesus teaches that not only should we depend on God, but he also says that we humans need to see our powerlessness, and therefore depend on his power.  In other words, we have to depend on God because we are unable to accomplish the kind of life God desires for us apart from him.  God wants us to give up control of our lives to him, making him Lord of our lives.

So what could possibly be wrong about this statement? 

First, it might not be appropriate for certain people you are trying to reach out to.  A friend of mine told me a story about a fellow soldier in his National Guard unit.  This guy was a very typical alpha male, my friend said.  A “Get ‘er Done” guy, who could handle anything you bring him.  He is the kind of person who would receive “Let go and let God” as a weak statement.  We Americans have a tendency toward individualism, and it can be hard for us to give up control of our lives.  If you know you are talking with a person like that, it might be a bad idea to say to them “Let go and let God.”  It could even come across as offensive to them.  I would recommend looking for another way to reach them.

Second, this statement needs clarification: “Let go and Let God” does not negate the responsibility we have.  “Let go and let God” does not absolve us of effort on our part. It is very much connected to what we said in the series fact-checking common phrases dealing with difficulty when we talked about the phrase “God helps those who help themselves.” Take a look at how these two phrases could be in direct contradiction to each other: 

“God helps those who help themselves” emphasizes human responsibility to obey God.

“Let go and let God” emphasizes human dependence on God.

They could be conceived as contradictory, but I would like to suggest that these two phrases actually work together well.  Both are needed, providing checks and balances on each other.

God does not ONLY help those who help themselves.  As we saw last week, sometimes God helps people who are incapable of helping themselves, because he is merciful and gracious like that.

Likewise, when we “Let go and let God,” we must still be actively depending on him, and working to serve him and grow and become like him.  Depending on God, at least in part, means letting go of our ways of thinking, or our cultural ways of thinking, and doing things God’s way.  Following the way of Jesus.  Learning from him how to live. 

My conclusion is that “Let go and let God” needs some explaining. Avoid using it as guidance for those going through a difficult time, unless you balance it with further explanation about what it means to depend on God, and why that is so important. By itself, “Let go and let God” could be very vague and confusing, and as a result, counterproductive. At it’s root, though, is a wonderful concept of relinquishment that is vital for disciples of Jesus.

Check back in to part 5 as we fact-check our final phrase about God’s interaction with the world: “God works in mysterious ways.”

Hey Christian, “witness” might not mean what you think it means

10 Jun

We Christians use a lot of lingo.  This lingo is insider talk, words and phrases that most of us understand if we have been in churches for a number of years, but newcomers or anyone else might find this lingo confusing.  Some have even dubbed it “Christianese”.

Not sure what I’m talking about?  A friend recently directed me to this video that will introduce you to Christianese.

As you can see in the video, there are loads of Christian words and phrases that are classified as Christianese.  One was not mentioned in the video, and I would like to talk about it because Jesus talks about it in our final section of our series studying through Luke: Luke 24:36-53.  Read it and see if you can figure out which word is the lingo word.  Or just sneak a peek at the title of this post…

“Witness” is one of those Christian lingo words. In the Lancaster County town of Quarryville, for years there was a Christian Music Festival called Witness.  So perhaps when those of you from Lancaster think of the word “witness” the sounds and images of that concert are what comes to mind.  But there is a much more widespread way that Christians talk about “witness” and the act of “witnessing”.

When a Christian says the phrase “we are witnessing,” because of the way I was raised and because of my college and mission experiences, what comes to mind is people going out to share the Gospel with strangers.  Usually when you witness you have Bible tracts that you hand out.  You have memorized verses and what is called “the plan of salvation” so that you can encounter strangers on the street, or in the mall, or out and about, maybe on a college campus, wherever people are, and you can ask them if you can talk with them about Jesus.  And you hope that you can get into a conversation and share that plan of salvation with them, or at least hand them a tract that they can read later.  Most people don’t want to be bothered, and you come to expect that, but you hope to talk to at least a few.  This is what I was raised to call “witnessing.”  Is that the witnessing that Jesus is talking about here?  Nope.

There is another way we Christians use the word “witness.” And that is when we say that if you go to watch a particular movie like 50 Shades of Grey, or if you wear an immodest dress, or if you go to a bar, or read a certain book, or you name it, that behavior will ruin your Christian witness.  It is the idea that our witness is our reputation.  If we don’t have a particular kind of reputation, we won’t be credible in our attempt to talk about Jesus.  At the core, I agree.  Christians should practice what we preach.  But too often a Christian “witness” can become a very legalistic rules-based approach to following Jesus.  So is that the witnessing Jesus is talking here?  Nope.

Hey Christian, “witness” doesn’t mean what we have been told it means.  So what does “witness” mean?  Why does Jesus talk about when he gives his final instructions to his disciples?

Join us this coming Sunday, June 12th at Faith Church to learn more!

Christian phrases that need to go, and one to keep

21 Aug

We Christians have lingo, goobledy-gook.  Christianese, some have called it.  Phrases we spout off to sound righteous, but often don’t really mean.  Most of them need to go.  Check out this video for some egregious (and hilarious) examples:

Another one of those phrases we thrown around a lot is “Just depend on God.”   In the middle of a difficult situation, “Depend on God.” When you need wisdom about a choice in life, “Depend on God.” When a relationship is experiencing brokenness, “Depend on God.” Lose a job, get in an auto accident, have to face a tough test at school, “Depend on God.” Is this Christianese, just another Christian phrase that sounds good, but really doesn’t mean a whole lot?

Like “Depend on God”, we’re also quick to say the opposite, “Don’t depend on your own strength.” A famous verse we quote is Proverbs 3:5-6 “Lean not on your own understanding”. It sounds good. When we say these phrases, we give the impression that we are really faithful people, that we are actually depending on God. It sounds like we understand that God is greater, that God has power, and that we do not have the power. That we are literally trusting in him.  But are we?

So, the concept of “Depend on God” is good. The thing is this: We throw that phrase around really easily, but what in the world do we mean? If you say you want to depend on God, which is good, how, then, do you actually depend on God? Can you tell the difference between what depending on God looks like and what depending on yourself looks like? How do you know?

What do we actually do to show that we depend on God?

This Sunday as we continue our study through the Gospel of Luke, a new phase begins in Jesus’ ministry, and it will involve this very question.  If you want to get a head start, read Luke 9:1-10, and then join us at Faith Church on Sunday as we’ll look into this further.