Here’s a list of Christian terms that I’ve been putting together, they’re my own thoughts on these sometimes very churchy words (I’m still working on the list so do flag up, ask or even suggest other terms). As I say they’re my own definitions, I hope they’re useful:
Baptism is the official entry into the church, one that is always administrated with water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is the Methodist belief that baptism can only happen once and marks the beginning of a journey of faith. As Baptism marks the beginning of a life long commitment and a public declaration of faith, some Christian parents prefer for their children to make this decision when they are old enough, so they can decide for themselves, and will decide to dedicate there baby instead (see dedication). The act of Baptism is not just important for the person, but it’s important for the family and church congregation too: within the service there are a number of promises to be made by parents, God-parents and the church: all committing to support the person being baptised into the Christian faith. In a nutshell: This is the first big commitment publicly saying ‘I want my (child’s) life to have God in it’, its a big promise for the person to grow up knowing God.
Confirmation This is usually a Christian term used hand-in-hand with membership (see membership). Once a person believes in God, recognises what Jesus has done for them, and has an active faith, they may wish to take their church involvement to the next level and be confirmed into Christianity and into the church.
In a nutshell: This is when the person wants to make more of a commitment: with faith, with God and with the church.
A Dedication is a service of thanksgiving to God, bringing a child before God, thanking God for the child and dedicating them to God’s service.
Long term this allows the child, when they are old enough, to make a commitment for themselves. If parents are unsure of whether to baptise their child or not, this type of thanksgiving service is an appropriate alternative. This isn’t just a modern alternative but one that is common throughout the Bible and Church history.
In a nutshell: publicly thanking God for the birth of a child.
Faith is the relationship between a person and God, it’s about trust, and it’s about actively bringing ourselves before God and recognising Jesus in our lives.
In a nutshell: trusting in God, believing and responding.
God is the creator, sustainer and saviour of the universe. God loves us, and so wants to be in relationship with us- through the Holy Spirit and in prayer. The Old Testament tells us stories about how God reached out to humankind and the New Testament shows us, that through his limitless love for us, sent his Son into the World so that we can know God, be free from the stuff that gets in the way and live life to God’s full potential.
In a nutshell: God, the one who made the whole of creation.
Grace can mean two things: either saying grace before a meal; or more commonly talked about, God’s grace. God’s grace (or the Grace of God) is a term that describes that whilst we have all sinned and done wrong, God still loves us and wants to be in relationship with us- even if we don’t deserve it.
In a nutshell: God’s unconditional love for us.
The Holy Spirit is part of God that is active in the world, it is often invited to guide reading the Bible, lead the church in worship. In the Bible, When Jesus was Baptised, the Holy Spirit descended on him ‘like a dove’ which is why it is associated with a dove.
In a nutshell: the active part of God that can work in and through people.
Hymns are songs that contain theology, they are usually quite old and traditional but it can be used to describe any song that speaks about the nature of God.
In a nutshell: songs that ponder on God and Christianity.
Jesus is the Son of God, the baby born of the Virgin Mary (quite the miracle). The Christian faith believes that Jesus was completely human and completely God: he healed, he preached, and told stories about the true nature and character of God. As part of being fully human and fully God he didn’t give in to temptation, his life became the perfect act and gift of sacrifice from a loving God. Through his only Son dying on the cross it meant that the cost of all of our wrongdoings (sin) can be wiped away, no matter what we’ve done All we have to do is to accept his sacrifice for ourselves. It didn’t just stop there, not only dying – he was also resurrected, conquering death itself, showing hope and a promise of eternal life.
Recognising who Jesus is and what he did for everyone of us, can be the first step of asking Jesus into your life.
In a nutshell: God’s only son, saviour.
Membership is when a baptised believer decides to commit to the next level of their faith journey and gets confirmed and received into Membership in the Methodist Church and what it stands for. Once a member, the individual can take on further roles within the Church and can have a voting voice within church council meetings.
In a nutshell: joining the Methodist Church.
Prayer in its basic and simplest form is communication with God. Some have a very formal approach to this with structured words and gestures where as others simply share with God what is on their hearts. For me prayer, like any other relationship I see it is as a two way conversation- talking to God about what is on my mind, but more importantly I take time to listen to God in return. There is no right or wrong way to pray, but simply to communicate openly with God.
In a nutshell: talking and listening to God.
Sin is a very churchy word that basically means the bad stuff that gets between us and God. We tend to get asked to recall our sins in order to seek forgiveness, and because Jesus died on the cross for each and everyone of us, then as long as we accept Jesus as our Saviour, then God frees us from our Sin.
In a nutshell: the bad stuff that separates us from God.
Theology means a study of God, this usually has academic connotations but it is just how we understand and interpret God, this can be expressed in any way that we feel and it doesn’t have to use long and complicated words but simply reflect how we perceive God and how he works. In a nutshell: reflecting on God.
The Trinity is a term given to the identity and relationship between God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ. Jesus is the human form of God, (fully human, full divine) he is the ‘Son of God’ born of the Virgin Mary. God is identified as God the Father, (reflecting the relationship of father and son) and he is the creator of all things and actively wants to be in relationship with everyone of us in the same way. The Holy Spirit is the final part of the trinity, a gift from God that is his active presence here on earth: we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives and to be present and intercede in worship. In a nutshell: the 3 aspects of God: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The brothers John and Charles Wesley where fundamental in starting the Methodist Church. Born in the mid-18th Century, they both studied at Oxford and joined a Holy Club that took the Christian faith very seriously, it took discipleship, devotion and meeting together very seriously (which gained them at that point a mocking title of Methodists). Through a number of experiences and through joining significant others John Wesley started the Methodist movement that as well as disciple and devotion, it also focused on social outreach, generous giving and a urgency to preach the gospel to all that would hear. A lot of the Methodist theology was embodied and taught through singing hymns (of which Charles wrote more than two thousand that are still used today). In a nutshell: the blokes who started the Methodist ball rolling.
Worship is a phrase given to a person or people praising God, this can take many forms, singing, speaking, being silent, drawing, dancing, being loud, being silent, moving or being still; there is no set way of worshipping but it is simply about recognising who God is and what he has done in our lives and focusing on him, and responding to him. In a nutshell: focusing on God, from the heart.