Young people in America are growing up in an increasingly diverse culture. As people have moved to America from around the world, they have brought their culture and languages with them. As a result, an increasing number of families in America no longer speak English as the main language in their home. Recently I was at a beach in California when a young Hispanic family began to set up their beach items next to me. Though my Spanish is weak, I was able to follow enough of their conversation to realize that the mother was having an argument with the son about what he was going to wear into the water. What I found fascinating was that the mother spoke to the son in Spanish over and over again and every time the son responded in English. The mother was clearly more comfortable speaking Spanish, which I assumed was the language she grew up with. The son was clearly more comfortable speaking English, which he has learned growing up here in America. Both were clearly fluent in both languages because each of them used the other language at certain times during the conversation. But each chose most often to use the language that was more natural to them. It was one of the more seamless bilingual conversations I have ever personally witnessed.
This experience showed me a snapshot of the future of America. Increasingly young adults in America are growing up bi-lingual. They speak one language at home with their family and another out in the community when they interact with others. And they have no trouble moving back and forth between those two languages at will. If we want to reach this next generation for Christ, we may need to begin thinking of how we can use this bilingual reality to the church’s advantage. Though I only speak English well, this experience served as a good reminder that I might need to start brushing up on my Spanish. The future of the church may well depend on the ability of its leaders to speak more than one language.