My wife and I took our grandchildren to a theme park for our granddaughter’s birthday. Though we were exhausted by the end of the day, it was a lot of fun and we were glad we went. It was fun to watch our grandchildren ride the rides, meet the characters in costume and eat lots of foods we might not normally eat at home.
Because we live in a very diverse part of the country, many of the other families there spoke languages other than English. One family was sitting next to us chatting away in another language but almost every sentence had an English word or two mixed in. Apparently there is not a perfect translation for “face paint” or “roller coaster” or “ferris wheel” in their language. The children, who were bi-lingual, easily inserted English words when needed into a sentence in their heart language, and the parents understood it just fine. It was a great example of communication even when concepts do not quite fit the language we are used to speaking.
What does this have to do with the church?
Churches often speak a language that those outside the church cannot understand. We think that our non-churched friends are uninterested in the things of God when in reality, they simply do not know what we are taking about. We need to learn how to blend ancient theological concepts with modern language so our people can understand what we are talking about. If we refuse to use words that make sense to those around us, we will continue to see the church shrink and drift toward irrelevancy. Like the children at the theme park, we may be surprised how easily we can insert one word for another so others can understand the concepts more clearly.
Here is an idea, make a list of theology concepts important to share with the non-churched people in our lives. Then think of at different ways to express the same thoughts, but using simpler words. Then do again and see if we can make it even simpler. We might be able to speak more clearly than we realize, if we would just try!
Lord, help us learn to communicate Your truth in ways that others can understand. Amen.
Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at: