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Dude, Watch Your Jargon

Here we go again.

Have you ever thought that at the beginning of a story you’ve heard several times before? Once the person starts talking, you know exactly where they’re going. You’ve heard it before. You get it. Here we go again.

It’s interesting how this sort of thing especially happens in marriage. Husbands and wives do a lot of talking and before long they know each other’s best stuff. What might be the first time we tell our story to friends could be (or feel like) the hundredth time our spouse has heard it. This was the theme of a recently re-aired show from This American Life. They call the show “Reruns” and though overall it’s not that great, this marriage part was really good. They interviewed three couples about the stories their spouses always tell.

We all have those stories, don’t we? Just ask your wife or husband. My “go to” is from a missions trip in Mexico. It’s self-deprecating and serious, but ends funny. See, already I want to tell it. And if you were sitting in our living room, I would … even as my lovely wife would probably roll her eyes. For good reason she’d roll her eyes. It’s the same thing again and again. Same setting, same angle, same words.

It’s exactly what pastors and Christian leaders should not do when we preach, teach and write gospel truth. Our message is not set on mere rerun. It can’t be, not today.

Trending Now

There are two antithetical trends happening right now.

  • Trend One is that western society is increasingly becoming post-Christian.
  • Trend Two is that Christian media seems to be at an all-time high.

As our environment grows more contrary to our message, Christians are saying more than ever. Whether the Internet or pop culture or publishing, Christian voices are beaming out all over the world. Our voices beam while we’re simultaneously marginalized, and this should affect how we talk.

How though? How should these two trends impact our speaking and writing and preaching? There are two ways, one negative and one positive.

Not Like This

The negative application is not to slip into the ditch of “same old, same old” in how we talk. It means we beware the poverty of theological vocabulary. Or, to say it straight, it means: Dude, watch your jargon.

The easiest thing to do in a world where we get more air time but less ears is to nestle ourselves into a rut of discourse. We speak macrojargon. We shrivel down into canned language for listeners who we expect already know the words we no longer define. We say something like the other guy did, and the guy before him, who said it like the guy before him. Let’s press each other here. Christian communicators are not hamsters stuck in their wheels. We shouldn’t just robotically repeat the same lines. We should push ourselves to say things freshly.

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Jonathan Parnell (@Jonathanparnell) is a content strategist at desiringGod.org. He and his wife, Melissa, live in the Twin Cities with their three children and counting. He grew up in a rural community just outside of Raleigh, NC and studied at The College of Southeastern in Wake Forest, NC and Bethlehem Seminary in Minneapolis. An aspiring pastor and writer, Jonathan hopes to plant a church in the Twin Cities and give his life to helping people see the glory of Jesus.