I spent a large part of my life out in the world and not in church. When I finally did start church, one of the biggest problems I had was understanding some of the words they used.
It was sometimes hard to follow along with the lesson in Sunday School because I felt like the teacher was speaking a language I didn’t know.
With that in mind I have started this Church Vocabulary page. I hope it will help you better understand some of the things being discussed in church.
If you have any words or phrases you would like defined, please send me a message or email and I will get your words up as quickly as I can.
Here is a list of common church words and their definition:
Altar – The area adjacent to the church stage is called the altar. It is a place where you can kneel and pray. Often people from the congregation will kneel beside you and pray with, and for, you. It is symbolic of the altar in your heart and of kneeling at God’s feet.
Altar Call – A time typically at the end of a church service when the pastor will offer the opportunity for people to come to the front to kneel at the altar and pray.
Back-slid (or backslide) – A Christian who has turned back from following Christ and chosen to go back to their old ways. Sometimes it is only in one area, but typically it is used to mean in all areas of their life.
Baptism (or baptized) – the immersion into water as an outward symbol of the inward spiritual cleansing of the soul received when accepting Christ as your Savior. It is symbolic of being born into the new life of Christianity. It is common for the person performing the baptism to say, “buried in baptism with Christ, raised to walk in newness of life” or something similar.
Born Again – to enter into a new spiritual life by accepting Jesus as your savior. The Bible says when we commit our lives to Christ we become a “new creation in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Christ – Jesus, the son of God.
Christian – A person who has realized Jesus is the Savior and asked Him into their life and entered into a spiritual relationship with Him.
Church – the church is the worldwide body of believers in Christ, commonly called Christians. It is common for people to call where the church meets the church, but it is actually the church’s building. This word is often used to describe one particular congregation or group of Christians who meet in a particular building.
Confess – To openly and honestly admit your sin. This is done in prayer to God. He is the one we are accountable to and need to admit (confess) our sins to.
Convicted – To feel convicted or conviction means to feel the Holy Spirit talking to you about your sins and to realize they are wrong and that you need to confess and repent of them.
Cross – A structure shaped like a t made with 2 beams of wood. Used as a form of execution in ancient Rome, criminals were fastened to them to facilitate their death.
Crucify – To fasten someone to a cross as a way of causing their death. Used in ancient Rome as a form of execution of criminals. This is how Jesus was killed.
Disciple – One who is a student of, or follower of, another. Implies the disciple accepts the authority and teaching of the one they are following.
Doctrine – What a church believes concerning religion; a set of beliefs they hold and teach. These beliefs vary slightly from church to church and especially from denomination to denomination. Many churches have written up a form with paragraphs or bullet points listing their doctrine, and will often title it “What We Believe”.
Everlasting Life – To have life that never ends. This is life in Heaven after the death of the body in this world.
Faith – Belief, trust, acceptance even though you cannot yet see proof.
God – The Spiritual Being who created all of Heaven and Earth. He has always existed and always will. He is all powerful, all knowing and completely sin free.
Gospel – Explanation or teaching about Jesus and His life while on Earth, usually focusing on His death, burial, and resurrection. When you “share the gospel” you are telling someone about what Jesus did while on earth as a way of leading them toward the knowledge of who He is in the hopes they will choose to trust Him as their Savior. The first 4 books of the New Testament focus on Jesus’ life and what He said, did and taught. These biographical books are called the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of John.
Holy Ghost – Also called Holy Spirit, is a part of the trinity (or three parts) of God. God is a Spirit, identified as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All parts are one. The Son is Jesus. When we become Christians the Holy Spirit comes and abides in us and helps us with our faith walk. Also called the Comforter.
Idol – Anything that matters more to you than, or gets in the way of, your relationship with God. It can be anything: a habit, belief, hobby, or attitude. When we set prayer, church, bible reading or providing funds for the kingdom aside to do other things we are in danger of making that other thing an idol.
Jesus – God’s Son. He was sent to this earth as a baby, born to a virgin named Mary. He was crucified on a cross as payment for our sins. On the third day he arose from the dead and is now ascended into Heaven and seated at the right hand of God. Although He came as a baby in the flesh He is also fully God.
Legalistic – To be legalistic means to put laws, rules, regulations, rituals, and/or traditions above what God, through His word in the Bible, calls us to do. When you follow legalism you are adding man-made regulations for salvation or Christian living to what God actually expects.
Redeemed – To be bought or received in exchange for something else. Jesus redeemed us by exchanging His life for ours. He bought us with the price of His life. Also called ransomed.
Repent – to regret, admit and turn away from your sin and determine not to do it again.
Salvation – to be rescued from the bondage of sin which separates us from God. When we accept Jesus as our savior He rescues, or saves, us from what we deserve as a result of our sin, which is eternal death, and creates a bridge between us and God so that we can be reconciled to Him.
Saved – to have salvation. Jesus saves us when we admit we are a sinner, believing that Jesus is the Son of God, sent to this world to save us, that He died for our sins so that we could be rescued, and that it is by calling out to Him and giving Him control of our life that we can be rescued from our sin state. We cannot save ourselves, only Jesus through His shed blood can do that.
Sin – to commit a violation of God’s law or to act in a way that goes against God’s expectations. There are 2 kinds: doing something you shouldn’t (sin of commission) and not doing something you should (sin of omission).
Walk the Aisle – an old phrase meaning to respond at the altar call at the end of the church service and literally walk down the aisle to the front of the church to pray and ask Jesus into your heart and life.