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Reformed. Christianity. Evangelism. Modern Culture.
For some reason Michael Patton’s “Beginner’s Guide to Christianity” has left me rolling on the floor. Okay, (crawling back into the chair) here is an excerpt and read with a pinch of salt:
1. “Heads bowed, eyes closed . . .”: During a church service, you may hear a preacher abruptly break into this unexpected dialogue with the audience: “Heads bowed, eyes closed. If you have accepted Christ into your heart [more later], I want you to raise your hand.” Don’t get scared. Nothing bad is going to happen to you. It is not a fancy way to steal your money or pull anything sneaky. It is the preacher’s way of helping the uncomfortable seeker feel more at ease about accepting Christ. It is best if you just follow instructions here.
2. “Into the Word”: This is a portion of an important phrase that may be communicated by seasoned Christians in many different contexts. It always has reference to the Bible. Yes, I know, the Bible is more than one word, in fact it is thousands, but once you are a Christian, it becomes singular and has a definite article, “the,” attached to it. If you hear someone say, “Are you in the Word?,” this is another way of saying, “You need to read the Bible if you are going to be spiritual like me.” IMPORTANT: This has no relation to the phrases, “Word to your mother,” “Word up,” or just plain “Word.”
3. Backslidden: This has no reference to the past event of sliding down a hill on your back. It is used to refer to those Christians who are now suspect in their original confession due to their current participation in a particular sin.
4. “Ask Jesus into your heart”: Although there is nowhere in Scripture that people are commanded to ask Jesus into their heart, this has become the primary means by which Evangelicals believe a person becomes a Christian. Don’t be scared here. Heart surgery, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular exercise (or lack thereof) have no bearing on Christ’s presence in your heart. He does not actually live there.
5. Soul Winning: Please understand, this is not a game. It is the act whereby one person tells another about Christ and the person believes, thereby having their souls “saved” (i.e. “won”). I know that normally if there are winners, you would think there are losers, but not in Soul Winning. Everyone wins in this game (except the lost).
6. “I see that hand . . .”: This is related to #1. The pastor has just asked for raised hands while everyone’s heads are bowed and eyes closed. “I see that hand” can mean one of two things: 1) Someone is indicating that they have accepted Jesus by raising their hand. 2) The pastor is acting like someone has to be more heroic and finance the new building. VERY IMPORTANT: Avoid any temptation to look for the hand when the pastor says “I see that hand.” Although science is inconclusive, we are not sure if you looking for the hand raised has any bearing on the effectiveness of the salvation process. It is best to be safe and avoid giving in to this temptation. To be very spiritual, just thank the Lord for that person and pray that they become a Calvinist.
7. Contemporary Christian Music: Avoid at all costs. Yes, many of your Christian friends will act as if they like it. Musicians, sociologists, and psychologists are perplexed as to the reasons why. We believe it is due to the pressured environment of the Christian community for Christians to do all things Christian, but this has no bearing on your salvation. Please, don’t feel pressure to like it.
8. Christian Movies: See “Contemporary Christian Music.”
9. Baptism: The spiritual act of going under water. Yeah, I know, most people don’t understand it, but you must do it anyway. Oh, also, someone else has to push, drop, or lower you; otherwise, it is ineffective.
10. Lord’s Table (Baptist): It goes by many other names, but this represents the time when you eat a really small cracker and a small cup of grape juice and afterwords are more spiritual because of it. Think mystery. It is very important to know that this is not the church providing lunch. As well, those who are on the Atkins diet cannot become Christian because of the high carbs in both the juice and cracker.
For Baptists: don’t be surprised if the cracker, due to its small size, gets lost in your mouth after one slight chew. Unswallowed, it may be lost between your teeth for the rest of the day. While this might seem sinful, it is acceptable for all but Catholics who believe that Christ himself is stuck in your mouth.
Lord’s Table (Presbyterian/Anglican/Methodist/Catholic): Free booze.
11. Raising hands during worship: Be very careful with this. The first thing you need to know is that this is not the way to ask a question during church service, but a way to worship. Churches are not in agreement about its validity. Some churches allow the “Full throttle” (raising hands above your head either with hands spread or index finger pointed), but some places only allow the “Governor” (hands raised to chest high position). Some churches will see any extension of hands as a sign of self-promotion and you will be asked to leave. The best approach is to ask the usher while being seated.
12. Quiet time: Please note, this has no relation to “time out.” In fact, it could be just the opposite. All Christians are expected to have “quiet time.” It is at this time that you renew your relationship to God through prayer and Bible study. The longer the better. If you do this first thing in the morning, people will count you blessed.
13. The gentle hand squeeze at the end of a prayer: While this is not a phrase or word that you need to know, it is a practice that might get you caught off guard if you are not aware of implications. It will come at the end of a prayer in which hands are being held. It is a gentle squeeze as the prayer says “amen” or immediately after it. Either is acceptable. It means, in essence, ”I love you and we are in this together. So hang in there and call on me if you ever need anything.”
14. “Lord,” “Lord God,” “God,” and “Father God” references in prayer: This is related to the previous, but an important addition to your understanding of public prayer. While praying, Christians will continually repeat God’s name so as to remind you and themselves to whom they are praying. Therefore, do not be surprised to hear “Lord,” “Lord God,” ”Father,” or its popular variation, “Father God” at the beginning of every sentence. It sometimes will even occur multiple times in the same sentence such as the following: “Lord God, we just pray that you will be with us God during our trip God.” Pretty much, the more you say a variation of God’s name, the more spiritual you are.
15. “Hedge of protection”: This is the way to pray for the protection of a loved one. Its the primary Christian defense against demonic forces. No one really knows what a “hedge of protection” is, but everyone knows that Satan does not fair well when its presence is evoked.
16. “Worship”: Singing.
17. Vacation Bible School: Free summertime babysitting for parents.
18. Fish symbols on the back of your car: Hard core evangelism.
19. “If it be God’s Will”: A spiritual sounding addition to prayer. It indicates that you don’t really think God is going to answer your prayer. Use this phrase a lot, it’ll save you a lot of disappointment.
20. Rebaptism: “This time I really mean it.”
21. Beer. Depending on where you live, beer is either representative of your freedom in Christ and solidarity with Martin Luther or your identification of your reservation in hell. So be careful.
22. Home Schooling. Publicly: Better education. Privately: The Christian fathers’ attempt to instill an anti-social behavior within their daughters in hopes that they will never meet anyone of the male species.