What did you say?

March 29, 2016

Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. Many people would argue it is the same word. According to an english teacher I think we’d all have to admit that they are. But they sound different. Sometimes people use different words for the same thing too.

“Would you like a Coke?”

“Yes, please.”

“What kind?”

“Excuse me?”

“I asked what kind.”

“You asked if I wanted a Coke?”

“Oh, you see here in the south we call all soda (or is it pop?) Coke.”


I have seen this same thing play out in my career in ministry as well. There are those who would ask you to share your ‘testimony’ and others who would ask you for your ‘story.’ After church someone might ask you to stay for a ‘potluck’ while another might keep you for a ‘fellowship dinner.’ When it comes to the different between the ‘gathering hall’ and the ‘narthex’, there probably isn’t too much harm done in using either. But when it comes to other, more complex or theological things, I’ve found that HOW you say something is sometimes of the utmost importance.

I once worked at a church (that will intentionally remain nameless) that seriously had a list of taboo words that we weren’t allowed to say or use. At first, I found it hilarious, and in some instances it really was. But I can say that if you’ve ever seen the look on a non-Christians face when you asked them if they’ve been ‘saved’ or ‘washed by the blood’, you might not think that the list is so extreme. Even the difference between ‘salvation’ and ‘being forgiven for your sin’ can be a big deal.

My point in saying all of this, isn’t to shame anyone for their use of what is called in the business, ‘Christianese’, but rather to encourage you that using your own vernacular (vocabulary) is almost always most effective. When you talk to people about God, it doesn’t help to SOUND holy if people don’t understand what you’re saying. It’s also true that people are way more likely to connect with, and want to hear more of your story, if they are hearing it in words that they’re used to and can understand.

As I write and preach, I often find myself using words that I have read or that make me sound smarter than I really am. When I first write the sentence, I’m really impressed with myself. But after I re-read it a couple times, I find myself realizing that having my point understood is way more intelligent than sounding smart. I would hope you agree.

Your story is your best tool in sharing Christ with those in your life. Feeling and sounding natural when you do it makes it even better. So whether you’re a soda or a pop person I think we can all agree that saying po-tah-to just to sound learn-ed, makes all of us just a little sick to our stomach. 

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