Ten Cliches Christians Should Stop Saying

Ten things Christians say a lot, but shouldn’t.

We Christians have a remarkable talent for sticking our feet in our mouths. When searching the words most commonly associated with “Christian,” the list ain’t pretty. I think part of this can be attributed to a handful of phrases that, if stricken from our vocabulary, might make us a little more tolerable. Yes, these things may mean something to you, but trust me, non-Christians don’t share your love for these tried-and-true cliches.

So in no particular order, here are ten phrases Christians should lose with a quickness:

  1. “Everything happens for a reason.” I’ve heard this said more times than I care to. I’m not sure where it came from either, but it’s definitely not in the Bible. The closest thing I can come up with is “To everything, there is a season,” but that’s not exactly the same. The fact is that faith, by definition, is not reasonable. If it could be empirically verified with facts or by using the scientific method, it wouldn’t be faith. It would be a theory. Also, consider how such a pithy phrase sounds to someone who was raped. Do you really mean to tell them there’s a reason that happened? Better to be quiet, listen and if appropriate, mourn alongside them. But don’t dismiss grief or tragedy with such a meaningless phrase.
  2. “If you died today, do you know where you’d spend the rest of eternity?” No, I don’t, and neither do you. So stop asking such a presumptuous question as this that implies you have some insider knowledge that the rest of us don’t. And seriously, if your faith is entirely founded upon the notion of eternal fire insurance, you’re not sharing testimony; you’re peddling propaganda.
  3. “He/she is in a better place.” This may or may not be true. Again, we have no real way of knowing. We may believe it, but to speak with such authority about something we don’t actually know is arrogant. Plus, focusing on the passing of a loved one minimizes the grief of the people they left behind.
  4. “Can I share a little bit about my faith with you?” Too often, Christians presume we have something everyone else needs, without even knowing them first. Ask someone about their story, but maybe not the second you meet them. Christian evangelism often is the equivalent of a randy young teenager trying to get in good with his new girlfriend. When your personal agenda is more important than the humanity of the person you’re talking to, most people can sense the opportunism from a mile a way.
  5. “You should come to church with me on Sunday.” It’s not that we should never invite people to church, but too much of the time, it’s the first thing we do when we encounter someone new. My wife, Amy, and I started a new church eight years ago, founded on the principle of “earning the right to invite.” Invest in people first. Listen to their stories. Learn their passions, their longings, and share the same about yourself. Then, after you’ve actually invested in each other, try suggesting something not related to church to help you connect on a spiritual level. If the person really gets to know you and wants to know more about why you live your life the way you do, they’ll make a point to find out. Then again, if you come off as just another opinionated, opportunistic Christian, why should they honor your predatory approach with a visit to the church that taught you how to act that way in the first place?
  6. “Have you asked Jesus into your heart?” As many times as I’ve heard this, I still don’t really know what it means. why my heart? Why not my liver or kidneys? This also makes Christianity sound like a purely emotional experience, rather than a lifelong practice that can never entirely be realized. But yeah, asking someone if they’re engaged in a lifelong discipline to orient their lives toward Christlike compassion, love and mercy doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it.
  7. “Do you accept Jesus as your personal lord and savior?” Again, this is not in the Bible. Anywhere. And for me, it goes against the whole Christlike notion of the suffering servant. People tried to elevate Jesus to the status of Lord, but he rejected it. So why do we keep trying? Plus, the whole idea of a lord is so antiquated, it has no real relevance to our lives today. Be more mindful of your words, and really mean what you say.
  8. “This could be the end of days.” This is one of my favorites. We Christians love to look for signs of the end of the world; we practically have an apocalyptic fetish. It’s like we can’t wait until everything comes to a smoldering halt so we can stand tall with that “I told you so” look on our faces, while the nonbelievers beg for mercy. Yeah, that sounds like an awesome religion you’ve got going there. Sign me up!
  9. “Jesus died for your sins.” I know, this is an all-time Christian favorite. But even if you buy into the concept of substitutionary atonement (the idea that God set Jesus up as a sacrifice to make good for all the bad stuff we’ve done), this is a abysmal way to introduce your faith to someone. I didn’t ask Jesus to die for me, and if I’m not a Christian, I really have no concept of how that could possibly be a good thing. he whole idea of being washed clean by an innocent man’s blood is enough to give any person nightmares, let alone lead them into a deeper conversation about what Christianity is about.
  10. “Will all our visitors please stand?” If someone finally is brave enough to walk through the doors of your church, the last thing they want is to be singled out. They probably don’t know the songs you’re singing or the prayers or responsive readings you’re reading. Depending on the translation of the Bible you use, the scripture may not make much sense, and they probably have no idea where the bathroom is. So why add to the discomfort by making them stand so everyone can stare at them? Also, calling someone a visitor already implies they are simply passing through, that they’re not a part of things. Instead of “visitor” or “guest,” try something less loaded like “newcomer.” Better yet, walk up to them, introduce yourself and learn their name.

 

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About Christian Piatt

Christian Piatt is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting called PregMANcy: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.

Christian Blogs for Patheos, Huffington Post, Sojourners and others.

For more information about Christian, visit www.christianpiatt.com, or find him on Twitter (www.twitter.com/christianpiatt) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/christianpiattauthor).

Comments

  1. Steve Meikle says:

    Some of his responses here are rank heresy. He does not know his subject so has no basis to speak on it. Even if some things said by us christians are cliched his reasons why this is so are simply wrong, most egregiously so if his definition of faith as unreasonable. His belief may be whistling in the dark. Mine is not

    • rob smith says:

      But faith is by definition unreasonable. If it was supported by evidence, it would be reasonable and called knowledge

  2. Gint Aras says:

    “Better yet, walk up to them, introduce yourself and learn their name.”

  3. CLICHÉ ONE

    There is a whole mixed bag of wrong and write in this statement, as with many of the clichés about which you have written.

    I don’t agree that it is not biblical. A variant of what is meant when people say this IS in the bible. It comes from Romans 8:28, which says: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” What is very irritating is however is when Christians use this verse in an insincere, thoughtless or cavalier fashion. I would agree that this phrase gets used insensitively.

    I don’t accept that faith is by definition ‘not reasonable’. It was reasonable for the Roman Centurion who saw the 3 hours of darkness and felt the earthquake at the crucifixion to wonder: ‘Surely this man was the Son of God’ (Matthew 27:54). Luke (as a doctor and a man concerned with diagnosis and background facts that explain symptoms) wrote at the beginning of Acts: “After his suffering, he [Jesus] presented himself to them and gave many convincing PROOFS that he was alive.” It was reasonable for Luke to report this. (Acts 1:3). Jesus’ half-brother James only became Jesus’ follower AFTER the resurrection. It was reasonable for James to change his mind in the face of overwhelming circumstances which disproved his previously held convictions about his half-brother. All of these are “factual” enough for me to support my faith that Jesus was the Son of God – and for millions of other Christians. too. They are provable facts because eyewitnesses saw them, and thought they were important enough to write down – and in some cases they were facts that they were willing to lose their lives over.

    No, I would never use Romans 8:28 in the context of someone who was raped: instead I would weep alongside this poor person, just as Jesus cried because of the death of his friend Lazarus. So yes, it IS correct to write ‘don’t dismiss grief or tragedy with such a meaningless phrase’.

    CLICHÉ TWO

    Again, another mixed bag – some correct observations, many incorrect.

    Being able to say a phrase like this all depends upon permission and opportunity. We do no longer live in an age where this kind of evangelism works very well – it usually produces guilt, not discipleship. Once in a blue moon, though, someone WILL become a follower of Jesus if confronted with this sentence. The cliché implies that there are far better methods of connecting people in a healthy way with Jesus – and I would agree with that – although those alternative approaches are not touched on here, but in another cliché further down I think.

    The parable of the death of the beggar Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) is a clear reminder, however, that the rest of eternity is something which we must all think about. Heaven is the place where the people who have freely chosen to accept that Jesus is the centre of universe spend the rest of eternity. Hell is the place where the people who have freely chosen to accept that they themselves are the centre of universe spend the rest of eternity. Jesus is the person appointed to make an accurate judgment between the two.

    It is not a presumptuous question, and there is no insider knowledge – only a very clear picture of two places in the afterlife, given us in the bible, and the need for an ongoing relationship with the person appointed to make the decisions about where people end up.

    And in a separate vein, and again in disagreement with the sentiment of the cliché: I do know where I am spending the rest of eternity! Romans 10:9 tells us this. “if you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” I have declared Jesus is Lord, and I definitely believe God raised him from the dead (as a historical fact) – so I’m going to heaven! Not presumptuous – just an acceptance of what my bible says!

    And, no, my faith is not based on a kind of fire insurance, that would be wrong, and so I agree with that! (You article is like a game of table-tennis, yes, no, yes, no, yes, no…) It’s based on a relationship with someone who has shown me a lot of love, but who has also pointed me to better ways of living – Jesus!

    CLICHÉ THREE

    Although this is not spelled out, I can assume you mean this phrase is used to bring comfort when someone has died. I would say that if someone was in a lot of pain for a long period prior to death, then perhaps it is not unkind to say they are in a better place.

    I agree that we do not know for sure where a person ends up – because only Jesus can judge that one, ultimately.

    But to say it doesn’t come from arrogance, you are wrong about that – it usually comes from caring.

    “focusing on the passing of a loved one minimizes the grief of the people they left behind” is a weird thing to write – and I’m not sure you know what you’ve said there. I think it hurts people even more, and needlessly, if you are always focussing on their loss – yes – but again, there is a time and place for everything – and at a funeral, it is right and proper that people focus on the passing of a loved one.

    CLICHÉ 4

    No – we DO have something everyone else who doesn’t yet know Jesus needs!
    Yes – we need to get to know people, certainly. How can people get to know Jesus, unless they know us first?
    Yes – wholeheartedly agree with the rest of what you’ve written there. Humanity first, always. Personal agenda – second – although when it’s God’s agenda, you can see why Christians do come out with this cliché. It’s all about permission and opportunity.

    5 “You should come to church with me on Sunday.” It’s not that we should never invite people to church, but too much of the time, it’s the first thing we do when we encounter someone new. My wife, Amy, and I started a new church eight years ago, founded on the principle of “earning the right to invite.” Invest in people first. Listen to their stories. Learn their passions, their longings, and share the same about yourself. Then, after you’ve actually invested in each other, try suggesting something not related to church to help you connect on a spiritual level. If the person really gets to know you and wants to know more about why you live your life the way you do, they’ll make a point to find out. Then again, if you come off as just another opinionated, opportunistic Christian, why should they honor your predatory approach with a visit to the church that taught you how to act that way in the first place?

    CLICHÉ 5

    Earning the right to invite – yes, often. But not always.

    Suggesting that the body of Christ’s heart for others to know Jesus as they do is ‘opinionated, opportunistic and predatory’ is too strong for me, and ignores the heart of love behind why many Christians do invite their friends to church.

    For me it can and should work on a simple level. Like this.
    Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. (John 1:40)
    CLICHÉ 6

    I think to ask ‘why not my liver or kidneys’ is just immaturity with a turn of phrase and misses the point. We all know that what is meant by ‘heart’ is that it’s the seat or centre of our spirituality, character and emotions. We give our hearts to our spouses when we marry. “There is a little piece of my heart with you guys…” etc. etc. etc. It means the ‘most special place’, personally for us.

    No, is not just purely emotional. Christianity is part factual, part faith, part reason part intuition, part emotional part rational, part choice part response, part us part Jesus, part human part Holy Spirit. Jesus was part human part divine. The bible is part people writing it part God inspiring it. Nothing in the Christian faith is purely just one thing.

    Most people would understand that asking Jesus into their hearts means putting Jesus in the most important place they can think of. That’s why Christians do that. They are checking that people considering becoming followers of Jesus aren’t just playing at it, they mean it.

    Responsible pastoring should ensure that a decision to follow Jesus is understood as a lifelong relationship with him.

    CLICHÉ 7

    Totally disagree with this one! What about the most obvious example: Thomas? Thomas receives Jesus as his personal Lord and Saviour in a very personal and direct way – modelling to the whole of humanity just how it is done.
    A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:26-28)
    Jesus is Lord AND the suffering servant. Why can’t he be both at once? Read the Christ hymn in Philippians 2. In fact, his role ‘in the very nature of a servant’ is WHY God exalts him to the highest place!

    Jesus didn’t reject people elevating him to the status of Lord at all. What he did was manage their expectations around who he was so that it didn’t disrupt his ministry – but as his ministry developed he was happier and happier for people to declare who he was, up until the point of riding triumphantly into Jerusalem. On his ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, there is no mention of him suppressing what the crowds were shouting about him at all.

    This is the point where your critique of clichés slips into outright heresy. Anything that denies the Lordship of Jesus is heretical, and is not acceptable as orthodox Christian faith.

    CLICHÉ 8

    This is not a biblical position to take. It COULD be the end of days. Equally it might not be.

    Jesus himself declares that only God knows when the end of world is:

    ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Matthew 24: 36)

    If not even Jesus is human form knew when this is (I assume he knows now he is in heaven at the Father’s right hand), then it is reasonable for Christians to act with the urgency that such uncertainty warrants.

    CLICHÉ 9

    This is completely heretical – and for me, brings into question the usefulness of anything else you brought up. I can’t take your theology at all seriously, now that you have written this.

    Do you think that what Jesus did on the cross needs tidying up a bit and making more palatable to the seeker-sensitive crowd? The gospel IS an offence, yes. Substitutionary atonement is exactly where it’s at.

    Hebrews 10:19-22 tackles the heresy you have proposed here directly.

    Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings.

    Again, though, it’s all about permission and opportunity. A conversation about this passage from Hebrews 10 is probably not the place to start the day you meet a non-Christian.
    But it’s where the true nature of the incredible thing that Jesus has done for us all is ultimately headed – and to suggest (which is what you say when you write ‘even if you buy into the concept’) that it is not something that you should buy into shows that you have not grasped something truly fundamental about the Christian faith.

    CLICHÉ 10

    Agreed. Why make it embarrassing or difficult for newcomers.

    Overall – your article makes some valuable points, but it is undermined horrendously by outright heresy on some key issues, and a lack of biblical knowledge. You have managed to suggest that we shouldn’t accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Saviour, that he isn’t Lord, and that he doesn’t save us through his blood shed for us on the cross. On that basis, it’s 0 out of 10 from me.

    • rob smith says:

      you should probably stop using cliche 9, not because of anything heretical but because how dumb it sounds.
      God impregnates a virgin so she can give birth to him so he can be sacrificed to himself so he can forgive us for sins we’ve not yet committed that he created anyway.
      Go ahead, keep saying it, we’ll just keep laughing

    • Anonymous says:

      And you sir are the reason I stay as far away from Churches as possible…

      • Pati Bea says:

        Agreed… but why be anonymous? I am not ashamed of my firm grasp on reality.. You shouldn’t be, either.. <3 Namaste'

    • Well said. I was thinking the same thing when I read this. He is a preacher? Although I agree to degree with some of his posts, ie; “Have you asked Jesus into your heart” Although I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with asking the question, I do believe we need to wait for the prompting of the Holy Spirit. This guy is way off the mark. Thank you for your well educated response.

  4. Pati Bea says:

    I agree with all of this. Being a recovered cath-ey, and a proud non-theist, I completely agree…Why Heart? why not pancreas, femur, cochlea, penis, thumb? Also, the arrogance of many krissies is just too overwhelming. Like when they come to your door and ask if you’ve been saved. Well, Not recently. I actually am the one who Does the saving, and I am in no soul-danger without espousing your made-up bible scare tactics. It also humors me that they teach their children that A-Theists are evil devil worshipers. I don’t worship that in which I do not believe. I likewise do not discriminate against those who go to a Different church than the next person. What The F? Since when are non-christians “bad”? Are all Jews bad? Are all Buddhists (of which I am one) bad? Do we believe that we have somehow missed the boat, and that, you’re Right, christians, we ARE lesser human beings? NO. We do Not. So stop being so narcissistic and arrogant and try following what your Jesus supposedly preached… peace, love, acceptance. Oh, and that bible? That wasn’t written by “GOD”, it was “written” by illiterates who had scribes. And it was written LONG after the supposed events happened. It Is All A Story, people. It is NOT actual..

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