Church Views · Her Views

banning jargon

Last week the Local Government Association in the U.K. published a list of 200 words which it says should no longer be used by local councils. LGA chairman Margaret Eaton said: “The public sector must not hide behind impenetrable jargon and phrases.”

A lot of these are clearly what you’d call industry “buzz” words. And it made me think about “buzz” words we regularly use in the Church. Here’s a list of words that would immediately go on my banned jargon list:

The Next Level. Why do you always have to take something to the next level? Are you ever allowed to skip levels? And how many levels are there, anyway? Do you ever reach the end? Would it ever be helpful to go back a level? Forget it.

Synergy. “The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.” Hello… in church I think we can just call this the body of Christ.

Leverage. Yes, let’s use something to get something else we want. Frankly, this feels like a buzzword that’s just a more positive-sounding word than manipulation. It might be okay if it’s leveraging something upward… like to the next level.

Excellence. This one has a good heart. As people created in the image of The Creator, we want everything we do to be “possessing outstanding quality.” But really. Who gets appointed “Arbiter of Excellence” at your church? Who makes the final decision and how is it measured? It can sometimes be so abstract and subjective that it’s really just code for “control.”

God showed up. Did he? Hmm…I don’t know… in a body of believers where two or more are gathered? In other words, did this surprise you?

Outside the Box. Ideas that are prefaced with this phrase are almost always inextricably linked to “the box.” Let’s just disassociate from The Box altogether, including using it as a parameter.

What words would you add to the list?

[ADDED] Relevant. I can’t even believe I forgot this word, it should have been first on the list. (Thanks for the reminder, Blair in the comments.) Calling yourself relevant is like calling yourself “hot.” It really is up to others to decide how “relevant” you are to them – it’s not a label you can claim for yourself. However “hot” you think you are is… irrelevant!

17 thoughts on “banning jargon

  1. I think that list (the one from the UK) is a bit silly. (I live in the UK and some things done by local councils are just silly, but that is a side note). I mean what else would one say besides “ambassador”?

    But, I like your point. I would add “comfort zone” to this list. Really, most people that brag about “getting out of their comfort zone” are still in it.


  2. I was thinking “comfort zone” needed to go too. I would also ban “godthing” as a way of describing God’s personal intervention and work on our behalf. It just does not give Him enough credit!


    1. “godthing” is a good one! Plus, I love that we also frequently ask God to work “supernaturally.” As if he does things any other way.
      Supernatural: it’s a godthing. 🙂


  3. Along the lines of Leverage is Utilize. Why can’t we just use something?

    Somewhat related: In the voter’s pamphlet for the first local election after I moved to Oceanside, the incumbent mayor’s statement said (repeatedly) that he was for excellence, and that’s why we should vote for him. Why? Was his opponent against excellence? That one drove me nuts.


  4. It’s funny – I wouldn’t actually say much of this was “relevant” (tee hee!) in the Australian church – perhaps we don’t do so much of the weird jargon as you Americans. Let me try it out:

    “God showed up and decided to think outside the box and take our excellence to the next level and more become more relevant by using leverage to inform our synergy.”

    Did I use them all correctly?!


    1. Prue, you are so funny! Yes, you used them very well. In fact, if you ever move to the states, you should have no trouble finding a job in any mega-church, you clearly speak the language. 😉


  5. I would vote for “New Reality.” As in, “In our new reality, we’re going to have to get used to working with a smaller staff.” Since we’re a quasi-church plant, everything for us has been a new reality. I’m not entirely sure how we got rid of the old reality–or, if reality changed for everyone or just us; and if it didn’t change for everyone, are we now causing a ripple in the time-space continuum by operating in a different (ie. “new”) reality from everyone else? These are deep questions, but rather than answer them, I just try to ban “new reality.”

    Yet I’m haunted by the question, “God will show up in our new reality?”

    Love the other words, BTW.


  6. I started tuning out when my friends, all on some sort of “team/committee”, started saying the were ‘on the same page?’ To me all these buzz words only serve to make those not on the team/committee feel very isolated and not necessary to the conversation.


    1. That’s actually one of the best reasons to be cautious when using buzzwords. It’s “insider”, and so is naturally exclusive. Our goal as the Church should always to be as inclusive (anyone can participate) as possible.


  7. Oooh, oooh, I can’t believe I forgot these. HATE HATE HATE “I have a burden for,” “I have a passion for,” and “I have a heart for….” Why can’t we just say “I care about….”


  8. I agree as to “fellowship” in sentences like “Where do you fellowship, [insert name here]?”

    And “authentic” is overused a bit, too. I should hope that we’re authentic and sincere and all that.


  9. Jargon makes the world go round. One word I’m definitely tired of hearing is swagger. Not that I hear in it church much but more like everywhere else in pop culture.


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