Has It Lost Its Meaning?

By November 10, 2019Public Blog

We hear it all the time!  We use it all the time!  However, how often does one take the time to think about what it means?  That is a question that I have wrestled with for several years.  You might be asking yourself, what on earth is he talking about?  I am talking about the term “Christian”.  Here are just a few of the many ways I have seen and heard “Christian” used,

  • a Christian worldview
  • thinking Christianly
  • the Christian mind
  • a Christian environment
  • a Christian nation
  • Christian education
  • a Christian school
  • Christian leadership

You can probably come up with several more ways that the term “Christian” is used to identify someone or something.  Recently, I was reading the findings of some significant research that ACSI has done on identifying key elements of a flourishing Christian school.  You can find the report here.  It is not my intention to review this research in this blog.  I mention it only because I found another way that the term “Christian” is used.  In this report, an article by John Hull was referenced.  In an article, Aiming for Christian Education, Hull identified the,

…Christian perspective as the defining concept in Christian education

The report went on to quote Hull as stating that the,

Christian perspective must reshape and redirect the curriculum, pedagogical theory, student evaluation, educational, goals, and school structure

First, I want to say that I completely agree with what I think the author is saying.  However, my question is, what is a Christian perspective?  When the term “Christian” is used as an adjective, how do most people define it?  I believe it has become so subjective that it has lost almost all of its true meaning.

Luke was one of the New Testament writers who used the word Christian in the book of Acts.

And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.  Acts 11:26 (KJV)

The first thing one needs to understand about this very important term is that believers did not refer to themselves by it.  They referred to themselves as disciples, brethren, saints, believers, etc..  It was unbelievers who called the disciples “Christians.”  Most Bible scholars believe that the term was used in a derogatory way as it implied a form of slavery.  These unbelievers looked at Jesus’ disciples as slaves of Christ!  From this original meaning, the term “Christian” became equated with the concept of being “Christ-like.”

John wrote about the deep meaning that comes with being associated with the name of Jesus Christ,

He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.  1 John 2:6 (NKJV)

If we are going to be called by His name, we are to walk as He walked — our life should reflect His life!  Unfortunately, the term “Christian” has been so watered down that this type of accountability has all but disappeared from the life of the average believer.  In fact, when I conduct staff development workshops and ask believers what the term “Christian” means today, the most common response I get is that it refers to a person who is nice and goes to church.

Because of this subjective use of the term “Christian”, I very seldom use it any more.  It is my conviction that we need to be more objective when referring to the various topics like the ones listed in the bullet list above.  This is why I believe it is important to use another term to describe such topics and that term is biblical.

What meaning do you give to such terms as:

  • biblical worldview?
  • thinking biblically?
  • biblical mind?
  • biblical education?
  • biblical school?
  • biblical leadership?
  • biblical perspective?

I can remember a time when a group of writers were developing an administrator handbook for early childhood programs.  I was given a draft of the manual to review.  It was a well-written manuscript and I only had one change that needed to be made.  I told the editor to go back to the authors and have them change every time they used “Christian” to define something to “biblical.”  The first reaction I received was that there were some things that could be referred to as Christian but may not be biblical.  I said, really?  How can something be Christian and not biblical?

You may have heard the statement, the one who defines the term usually wins the debate.  It is time to move from the subjective to the absolute.  Let’s make sure we are biblical in all we think, say, and do.  What are your thoughts?  Be sure to leave a comment below.

Glen Schultz

Author Glen Schultz

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Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Mrs. Billye Dowdy says:

    Oh Bro. Glen; you have really said it well – said it Biblically!!!!

    Thanks for all the very thought provoking Biblical Truths you always present in your writings!

    Blessings on you, your family and your ministries,
    Your Sister in Christ,

    Mrs. Billye Dowdy,
    High Springs’ First Baptist, FL

  • Glen, good word.

    I rarely use the word “Christian” either. I prefer to use the compound word “Christ-follower” when speaking of “Christians.”

    Biblical says it much better.

    Thanks, as always.

  • Mark Kennedy says:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. Since we all have fallible minds, there is room for believers to have different understandings on some matters while still having a biblical worldview.
    “The real chasm is not between Presbyterians and everyone else, or Lutherans and everyone else, or Anglicans and everyone else, or Baptists and everyone else. The real chasm is between those who have bowed to the living God and thus to the verbal, propositional communication of God’s inerrant Word, the Scriptures, and those who have not.” Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster

  • Jim Wing says:

    This is so important. I spoke to an administrator this fall that said “Biblical Worldview” had become a tag line. Fortunately when I asked him his definition of “Biblical Worldview” it allowed us to have a great discussion that helped him see the relevance of real Biblical Worldview instruction. It is so true that “the one who defines the term usually wins the debate”. Great post!

    Enjoyed seeing you last week in Cincinnati. It was a powerful conference.

    Blessings … Jim Wing

  • Lila Place says:

    I was so moved when I read this! I have been training our staff to use the term biblical instead of Christian because of the lack of consistency with the term Christian within our culture. Thank you for the confirmation.