Friday, December 30, 2011

On Speaking a Different Language

If you take time to read this blog then I'm guessing that church-related issues are important to you. I'm also guessing that when you try to talk about the church you often realize that those you are talking with have no idea what you are saying. They simply don't understand. This happens to me frequently.

Regardless of whether or not I'm talking with a follower of Christ, I find little comprehension on the part of the person with whom I'm having the conversation. It reminds me of our time in India. India is an interesting country for many reasons. One of them is that since England colonized India, many Indians speak English to one degree or another. When in South Asia, we could talk with a good number of the people about basic issues. However, when it came to more in-depth discussions we often struggled to communicate. In particular, conveying Christian truth was difficult. The reason? English was not their first language. That's why we were beginning to learn Hindi before we had to come home.

Back to the present. What should we do if others do not understand? The fleshly temptation of course is to feel pride and/or disgust. However, those are not the responses Christ would like us to have.

So how should we respond? We need to take the responsibility of speaking in ways that others will understand. We need to meet them where they are. This is not condescension; it is rather servanthood. It is trying to humbly talk in a manner that will bring about understanding.

Up until just a few years ago I had never thought about church issues outside of the institutional box. If I had stumbled into a conversation such as we often have on this blog I would have had no framework for understanding. I simply hadn't thought about it before.

It's sort of like when I hear people talking about things like knitting, European literature, music from the 2000's, ancient Cambodian architecture, wigs, and Twilight. I have no idea what's going on.

We have a responsibility to talk with others, both Christians and non-Christians, in ways they understand. As for non-Christians, the best thing to do is talk a lot more about Jesus Christ than the church (at least at first). As for other Christians, let's humbly talk using terms and phrases that make sense. Let's continue to ask hard questions and point out inconsistencies in the church, but let's do so in a way that brings about solid dialog.

This does not mean that everyone who understands will agree with what we say. I know this about this blog. For example, one blogger who understands what I write at the same time takes me to task on his blog every few weeks. That's fine; he disagrees with me. But at least he understands. I'm glad about this.

Let's go out of our way to help others understand what in the world we are talking about as far as the church is concerned. We cannot control whether or not they will agree with us (they probably won't). We can't even really control whether or not they comprehend (but we can try).

Let's humbly and lovingly do our part.


Mac said...

Agreed. My wife and I have been out of the institutional church for about 5 years. It has its down side, but the blessing far out weigh the down side. Most people cannot even fathom anything outside of the box. If we begin to administer the Grace of Christ by sharing gently and humbly, but with truth, then the message begins to penetrate. Gentle leading questions will help people to start thinking and the Lord can lead from there. For that matter the question should be prayerfully considered. Here is a phrase I use to help me while in these situations. "Is it so important who is right or wrong, or should the question be , how can I administer the Grace of God to them, as God in His Mercy has administered it to me?" This does not mean that the truth is not important, but how do we share it.
Once again it is a blessing to see you sharing on such matters. Thanks, brother.

Eric said...


Thanks for your comment. I appreciate very much your loving attitude. Leading questions are a good idea tat do tend to cause folks to think. Ultimately, it is very much an act of God to help others think out side the institutional box. It fascinates me who seems to be able to do this and who cannot.