Every week I get on this blog and write in a way that attempts to sound somewhat authoritative and thoughtful. I like to give the impression that I know what the heck I’m doing, but I really don’t. I’m constantly growing and learning about life and God and myself, and this blog is no exception.
As a writer, I’m always working on two key things, and I still have a loooong way to go on them both:
1) Finding my voice. It’s easy to mimic the countless other Christian voices out there that I think sound really great and I want to be like. Every time I read something thought-provoking or hear a great preacher I think, “Hey I should be more like them.” This is always a disaster. I’m not them and I end up sounding fake. That said, I’m still working on figuring out how Sharon says things best, and to stick with that.
2) Figuring out my target audience.
This second one has been really hard for me. Anyone who’s read my blog knows that it’s targeted towards Christians (in case “She Worships” didn’t give it away) but over the last couple weeks as I’ve written a number of posts, I kept having the thought, “How would this sound to someone who doesn’t believe in this?” Will they be totally turned off by all the Christian jargon and insider language I’m using? While I may be encouraging Christians, am I simultaneously turning off many who aren’t? And not because I’m being judgmental, but simply because of the basic assumptions I’m making? This is the internet, after all–it’s not like I’m holding a secret meeting of Christians that’s safe from the prying ears of those who disagree with me.
Yet sometimes I write like I am.
This is something that a lot of Christians struggle with. Some of us have so immersed ourselves in the Christian world that we don’t know to relate, or even talk to people outside of it. We know how we’re supposed to talk to non-believers, ie. be kind and loving, ask them questions about what they believe, listen to them, and then gently direct the conversation towards Jesus. That’s like every Christian’s covert op for being friends with non-Christians. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing (it definitely beats standing on a sidewalk screaming at people through a bullhorn) it’s generally not very convincing to people, and it overlooks our greatest evangelistic bridge–our humanity.
As humans, we share a lot of things with each other. We face the same fears, struggle with the same temptations, and we want happiness, health and security. God deals with all of these issues through his Son, and that’s one of the reasons why we follow Him. We don’t have to be afraid anymore. We don’t have to be bound by our anxieties and mistakes. Our humanity finds refuge and wholeness in Christ.
But for some reason, a lot of us act like we left our humanity behind when we became Christians. Because we feel so much pressure to make the Christian life appear totally awesome, we don’t talk about our doubts, our struggles, our regrets, or our fears with much openness. Even when we do talk about those things, it’s with a Christian spin or the tag line, “But God is faithful!” Yes, He is, but sometimes things are scary and awful. Period.
Many of us hide the things that make us human. We turn into Christian robots that smile all the time, always have the right answer, and are thoroughly unable to sustain real relationships with people who think God isn’t real.
This is why the Incarnation is such an important part of the story of Christ. God didn’t become man simply so that he could die in our place. He became man so that he could relate to us. He spoke to the world in a way it could hear and understand. He spoke into our humanity, and continues to do so.
That should be our model for ministry: Be human. Don’t act scandalized when a non-Christian (or a Christian) doubts Scripture–that’s human. Don’t judge when a non-Christian sins–that’s human. And don’t be condescending when a non-Christian struggles to have faith–that’s human.
Conversely, don’t act like holiness and purity come easy to you–that’s not human. And don’t act like you figured out God because you’re so smart or good–that’s not human either.
When I write in a way that only speaks to Christians and excludes the average human being, I have failed. Not only as a writer, but as a called disciple of Christ. Given that Christians are humans too, we need to hear the exact same truths as our non-believing counterparts. The language we use should essentially be the same. That said, if I’m no longer writing for the human heart, then I’m not really ministering well to Christians or non-Christians.
With all of that in mind, I’ve decided that that my target audience is human women. Regardless of what topic I’m discussing, I’m going to try harder to frame my language in a way that any person could understand. Obviously that’s a somewhat impossible goal given that the wisdom of God will many times be foolishness to humanity, but that’s no excuse for me to get lazy either.
The Christian in-crowd language is one of Satan’s greatest tools for short-circuiting our accessibility and authenticity. And he is so adept at it that most of us think it’s not a problem for us. I have non-Christians friends, and I know a lot of Christians who are a TON more socially awkward than I am, so until recently I always talked about Christian-ese in the context of “them.” “That’s something that cheesy Christians do. Not me.” But honestly, I think that’s what the majority of Christians do. Christians who act like broken humans are the exception.
Ultimately, our in-crowd language not only shapes our speech, but our minds and hearts as well. In-crowd language is merely a reflection of an in-crowd community. And as Christians, that’s something we’ve got to avoid. It’s hard to break out of the rut that our language falls into, but it’s something I want to work on in my writing, as well as myself.