Tuesday, August 29, 2006
It's an English-speaking church. The visiting pastor was Hispanic. He spoke in Spanish, using an interpreter to help his audience understand. I've spoken through an interpreter; either you say half as much or it takes twice as long. The pastor chose the latter. It took quite a while to get through his message. To be honest, I know some minds started to wander at times. At the end of his message, the pastor surprised everybody. He spoke to them completely in English. And he made a promise - the next time he would definitely speak in English. Of course, some folks were just a little frustrated. He could have spoken in the language of the people he was talking to; he just chose to speak in his own.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Wrapping Jesus in Hard Words."
It doesn't matter how important or sincere your message is if you deliver it in words the other person can't understand. And not all language problems are linguistic. Parents of teenagers know that. What their kids are saying may be some kind of "English," but who can understand what they're saying?
More importantly, when Christians tell about Jesus in church words, how many people without Christ can understand what they're saying? That's not just a casual question. It really matters because the message of Jesus is life-or-death information - like the directions to get out of a burning building. Every missionary to another culture knows that you can't settle for the easy thing; speaking in the language you're comfortable with. You don't just transmit the Gospel, you have to translate it. It's unacceptable that people may miss Jesus because you didn't put it in words they can understand.
American church folks speak a language I call Christianese. And sometimes I'm not sure we even understand what some of our words mean! But we tell people they need to be "born again," to "accept" or "receive Christ," to "become a Christian" or be "saved." And they either have no idea what those words mean or they have the wrong idea. The same is true of important words like "sin" and "Savior" and "believe." We think we've told them about Jesus, but they have no idea what we meant.
Thus, our word for today from the Word of God. It's a great prayer request from the Apostle Paul in Colossians 4:3-4. "Pray for us ... that God may open a door for our message ... Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should" Then he also asked people to pray that "whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me" ( Ephesians 6:19). The words you use matter. Proclaiming it clearly can make the difference.
So ask the Lord to help you hear yourself using Christianese and to help you find non-religious words to explain what a person needs to know to come to Christ. For example, sin can be explained as "you running your life instead of God running it" or "hijacking your life from your Creator." In our time, a "Savior" is a rescuer - someone who rescues you from a deadly situation you can't get yourself out of. That's what Jesus came to be for us. And what does it mean to "believe" in Jesus? The Bible's meaning is similar to what a dying person does when the rescuer comes; holding onto Him as if He's your only hope.
The most urgent, the most important news in the world needs to be delivered in words that a lost person can understand - non-religious words! We can do it if we choose to do it. There's someone you know whose only hope is hearing about and understanding what Jesus did on the cross for them. Please put Him where they can reach Him.