Monday, June 9, 2014

Language issues

I took the plunge yesterday and preached my first sermon in Spanish. Understand, I am anything but fluent. I often tell people that I speak Spanish about as well as a three or four year old child. But I can read and pronounce words and generally understand them.

The priority for me to do this comes from the fact that Calvary has a Spanish language worship service and it's important to me that the people who participate in that service sense that they're part of Calvary, not an add-on, not a group renting space, not a separate congregation. So that means the senior pastor should be involved, right?

Therefore, on Pentecost Sunday (yesterday) Pastor Tacho Dominguez preached in our English-speaking services and I preached the Spanish service. We preached on Revelation 5, which makes a marvelous Pentecost text.

But I've been thinking lately about the benefits to the church of Jesus Christ if his people made it a priority to learn another language. What if Christians picked a people group that they care about -- or that they're willing to learn to care about -- and started learning the language? I've been amazed many times to hear people who take the trouble to travel to another country for a church service project, but who refuse to put effort into learning the language. Do these people understand what a slap in the face that is to the people they're trying to serve? I hear them say things like, "We can communicate just fine" or "They understand my heart." No.

Part of the benefit if Christians would start learning another language -- there are many benefits -- is we would begin to learn that interpersonal relationships are always a cross-cultural move. We would start to see that in order to understand anyone or be understood by them, you have to pay attention to language issues.

We would also learn humility, and I believe that American Evangelical churches especially could use a heavy dose of humility.

Without a doubt, we would start to have a greater appreciation for Philippians 2.

So pick a group of people.  In most parts of the U.S., Spanish makes the most sense. However, there are pockets of Russian speakers or Somalis or Hmong or ... well, in the Minneapolis area alone, more than 120 languages are spoken. The nice thing about Spanish is that it's accessible and fairly simple to learn, at least at a basic level. Download the Coffee Break Spanish podcasts or buy a Rosetta Stone program. Pick up a children's book in Spanish and get started picking it apart.

The reason most people don't learn a new language is that it's hard, and it puts them in a place where they don't feel like they know much. Fight through that. Once you know twenty or thirty words, it's a great idea to find a Spanish speaker who will help you learn a little more. Then you discover another of the great benefits of learning a language -- it's all about relationships.

Read Philippians 2, and figure out what people group the Spirit of Jesus is putting on your heart.

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