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It’s certainly optimistic to refer to non-Christians as “pre-Christians.” Read on…

Christianese isn’t just a language so that Christians can talk about other Christians. There are a bevy of terms in Christianese that enable Christians to talk about the non-Christians in their life.

For example, a speaker of Christianese can refer to his or her non-Christian friends as “my non-Christian friends” or “my heathen friends” or even “my pre-Christian friends”! This last term is particularly interesting because it suggests that it’s only a matter of time before those poor lost souls finally accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. They may not believe yet, but they’re pre-Christians!

As history and our own experience has shown us, a group of people can use a word in a playful spirit within their own community and it’s all fun and games. For example, I know atheists who call one another heathens in a spirit of playfulness and parody. But if a Christian were to walk up and call them as “heathens” or “my new heathen friends,” then oh boy the fur would fly.

The other side of the coin is that by calling people “pre-Christians” you might say we’re holding out hope that someday these people will indeed accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, which Christians think is the only thing worth living (or dying) for.

Where do you fall on the spectrum? Do you sometimes refer to non-Christians by a special label?


¹pre-Christian adj.
1. Referring to that time period in a Christian’s life when he or she was not yet a Christian.
See also *BC.
1948 Eliot A Sermon Preached in Magdalene College Chapel : No one ever attempted to convert me; and, looking back on my pre-Christian state of mind, I do not think that such a campaign would have prospered. 1968 Jones A Song of Ascents 356 : I can see that the fragments of my pre-Christian life have been gathered up by Jesus and have been brought over into the new life. 1975 Van Wade Second Chance 234 : Jane was one of the people I had grieved in my pre-Christian experience. She had needed the support of her older brother, and I had been totally oblivious to her need. 1976 Colson Born Again ch. 26 : In my pre-Christian years any talk in my circles of the devil or Satan as an entity had been in a jocular vein. 1977 Godwin What It Means to Be Born Again 121 : Your life may not read like the great Christian novel. Your relationships and behavior may not always be what they ought to be…. Your language may sometimes reflect your pre-Christian vocabulary. 1979 Demarest Colossians 183 : During World War II in my pre-Christian days, I was a drill instructor in the Marine Corps. 1997 Anders What You Need to Know About Spiritual Growth in 12 Lessons 21 : I remember well my pre-Christian days. Before I became a Christian after my first year in college, I wanted to graduate with a double major in business and psychology. 2008 Poplin Finding Calcutta 153 : I had only one colleague and one friend (who were not Christian) from my pre-Christian days who could bear more than a minute in conversation about my newfound worldview.
2. Referring to someone who is not a Christian. The term optimistically suggests that the person may someday become a Christian.
2008 Selcher Becoming an Enthusiastic Church 273 : My small group prays for the salvation of my pre-Christian friends and relatives. My small group sponsors social events that provide a welcoming atmosphere for seekers.
²pre-Christian n.
1. Any non-Christian. The term optimistically implies that the person may become a Christian someday.
1990 Bleecker, Bishop The Non-Confronter’s Guide to Leading a Person to Christ 76 : The “Christianese” language we use when we pray seems very strange to a new or pre-Christian. 1999 Peace Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve 343 : In the so-called seeker-sensitive and seeker-driven churches, the needs, interests, and questions of “pre-Christians” are factored into the whole worship experience. Music is based on the tastes of outsiders. 2000 Richardson Evangelism Outside the Box 75 : Do we juyst wait until our friends start asking questions or move into crisis or enter a new stage of life where they feel their need for God? … There is a huge untapped potential among Christians who are in relationship with pre-Christians and don’t know what to do next. 2009 Missiology vol. 37 245 : Since most Korean churches regard churches as an event, non-Christians or pre-Christians are easily considered as heathen.
2. A non-Christian who is very close to converting to Christianity; someone who is interested in or curious about Christianity.
See also *seeker.
1990 Bleecker The Non-Confronter’s Guide to Leading a Person to Christ 16 : A pre-Christian is one who seems to be open to spiritual things and has not rejected Jesus Christ as Lord. 2003 Kimball The Emerging Church 200 : A pre-Christian is someone who does not have a clear understanding of Christianity but with the right approach could be convinced of its validity.
pre-believer n. Syn *²pre-Christian 1 or 2.
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