Weird Church Words We Might Should Think About

We need to pay attention to how we talk about Jesus and church when we talk to people about Jesus and church–especially those of us (like me) who have spent our lives in church and are used to the language.

Church language is not universal, and even among Christians, it varies. Evangelicals and Catholics and Mainline Protestants certainly do not all speak the same language (I’ve only recently learned about praying a “hedge of protection” around folks). But all of us could stand to pay a little more attention to how we talk when we talk about faith.

This is not to say we should totally eliminate our “churchy” words or even that we should “dumb down” Christian concepts for folks. We just need to realize that many of the words and phrases we use may require some education and explanation as we bring people into the fold. A little intentionality is in order.

Here are a few words and phrases to watch out for:

Any kind of acronym

My tradition (the PCUSA) is well known for tossing out the acronyms with no explanation. The PW, the COM, the PAM, the PEWA, and the PDA (Presbyterian Disaster Assistance…not Public Displays of Affection) are just a handful of the initials we toss around. And my Presby peeps are not alone in our use of those shortcuts. Though the letters may change, all churches love their acronyms.

Any of the -ieds

Glorified. Justified. Sanctified. Heck, most people who go to church on the reg have trouble defining those words.

Washed in the blood.

That’s just downright creepy and kinda gross.

Fellowship Time

No one outside the church talks about getting together as “fellowshipping.”

Traveling Mercies

I use this one a lot–although I usually try to only use it with other church folks. Everyone else just says, “safe trip.”

Body of Christ

People must wonder why we’re so obsessed with Jesus’ body. It probably seems, well…unseemly.

What are some churchy terms you have struggled with yourself, find weird or have used to confuse others?


Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer provides tools and encouragement for the rollercoaster ride of your faith journey. Follow me on Facebook , Instagram and YouTube. Get emails to keep up with all that is happening.

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