Have you ever asked some professional about their job and then have them talk past you with industry related lingo and acronyms? You can be speaking the same language but ineffective in communicating because of terminology. The same is true with talking about the Bible, God and eternal life. Church-speak is not spoken by everyone. Increasingly, there are people who know none of the stories and none of the terms that come from the Bible, so if you want to communicate the Gospel, you have to watch your language.
So what words should you use? My suggestion is that you should be a good listener before you talk about Christianity. Ask others questions about their religious beliefs. As they answer, if they answer, you can find points of commonality and terms that you can use.
Many of us in the church have many of our relationships within the church. As such, we forget what a person isolated from the church will know or not know. Common colloquialisms that find their root in the Bible may not be common anymore. For instance, if I refer to someone as a “Good Samaritan”, church people will know what that means. The outsider may not. Here are some terms and people you may have to explain carefully:
Jesus: Some people don’t know his time frame or what happened to him. Ask what they know. You may need to do a quick summary.
Grace: Try the word “gift”
Faith: Actually the Bible itself uses this word in three different ways. Faith can mean “deep trust”, or it can mean something like “religion” as in “they abandoned the faith”, or it can describe a spiritual bond formed with God, as in you are saved by “faith”
“Died for you”: Explain what Jesus’ death actually achieved. Jesus took the punishment meant for you on himself.
Atoned: Try “satisified a requirement”.
Sin: “Evil” or “actions that break God’s Law” or “a condition that is not the way God created us to be.”
Gospel: “God’s promises” or “the first four books of the New Testament” depending on what you are referring to.
In our rush to explain “God’s promise” concerning eternal life it is easy to fall into church speak and cliches. Unfortunately, some people think they know what we mean, but a subtle error can result in a big misunderstanding. Use their terms if you can and carefully explain biblical terms when you use them. This applies to written material as well. I’ve seen tracts put out by some denominations that I barely understood.
Sharing the Gospel is critical communication. It is worth the while to make sure it is clear communication.