Can Pastors and all Christians Speak a Non-Christian’s Language?
Devotional THought of the Day:
20 While working with the Jews, I live like a Jew in order to win them; and even though I myself am not subject to the Law of Moses, I live as though I were when working with those who are, in order to win them. 21 In the same way, when working with Gentiles, I live like a Gentile, outside the Jewish Law, in order to win Gentiles. This does not mean that I don’t obey God’s law; I am really under Christ’s law. 22 Among the weak in faith I become weak like one of them, in order to win them. So I become all things to all people, that I may save some of them by whatever means are possible. 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 (TEV)
After all, in my parish, I would reach about a hundred and fifty people in church on Sunday, but thanks to the Internet and a shared passion for something beyond Latin and liturgy, I was able to reach out to many thousands of Star Wars fans. Most of them probably would have never been in contact with a priest otherwise. In a way, just like the people back home in Holland, these Stormtroopers, Jedi, rebel pilots, bounty hunters, and Twi’leks had become my parishioners— very unusual parishioners indeed. How to Speak Wookiee When I have to prepare a homily, I always try to place myself in the position of those I’ll be talking to. What are the issues they deal with, and how can the Gospel help them in their daily lives? For communication to work, you need to speak the same language. If you want to communicate with a Wookiee, you need to learn how to speak Wookiee. (1)
One of the challenges in training lay people to serve in ministry, and in working with students who are preparing for ministry is the helping them learn to connect to those who speak a different language. No I am not talking about Mandarin or German or Tagolog, I am talking about the fact that Christians have their own language, much of which is, if known, defined differently.
Fr. Roderick – the author of the quote in purple above – gets this. I highly recommend his book- though protestants might need to “translate” it themselves! THe section describing a Christian’s conversation to a Wookie is alone worth the price of the book. There is a whole lot of of good material for helping us understand the people with whom we interact, with whom we live our lives. The very people to whom God has sent us, that we reflect Christ’s life and His love. Here is a priest that has learned to communicate with people who speak a different language! ( and has a great line about not arguing with a wookie!)
It’s not a matter of plotting every conversation, we are talking about our lives with them. But it is necessary to realize we don’t always speak the same language, and that some of our terms mean different things to them. Another example helps us understand this. Robert Schuller was once invited to give a message in a Mid-East Muslim Mosque. In talking to its leadership – they asked him not to talk about Christianity. He asked if he could talk about knowing God’s love, as reavealed in Christ, talk about walking and following Christ, and talk about the relationship which brings such hope, a relationship with God the Father. The answer was affirmative – for they didn’t know that was Christianity. They defined Chrsitianity as a religion hostile to them, the very word caused great anxiety. But in describing what Christianity really is from a Christians perspective – there was no issue. From that point on, Robert Schuller talked of following Christ, or the relationship, rather than just “being” a Christian.
This isn’t about dumbing down the Faith, and more than Paul’s words, written in Koine Greek, dumbed down the faith because it was a common language. It rathers invests the time (which is an act of love) in those people, assuring they can understand what we talk about, because the topic, their relationship with God, is more precious than anything else we could do. THat we understand this helps us be more patient with them, helps us to understand that the objections they have to what they perceive our faith to be, is not our perception. It helps us cut through their frustration and often anger, and prevent our desire to become defensive. It helps us realize that we are taling to the very people Christ died for, even though can’t even begn to comprehend that love, that desire of God.
Bottom line – do we want to want to see people join us, being freed from guilt and shame, from the sin they commit and the burdens of sins committed against them? Do we want them to understand the grace and peace that is beyond our ability to comprehend – or describe, but that we know its from God? Will we love these brothers and sisters that we can see, on behalf of the God we cannot “see” but whom we perceive?
Then we need to communicate to them.. in their language.
Lord have mercy on us, and empower us to do that which is in accord with Your will, that no one should perish – but all are transformed in Christ.
(1) Vonhögen, Roderick (2013-09-09). Geekpriest: Confessions of a New Media Pioneer (Kindle Locations 295-303). Franciscan Media. Kindle Edition.
- Preaching as Craftsmanship; Communicating Christ as an Artform… (justifiedandsinner.com)
- On the confessions of a geek priest! (onlifeandstuff.wordpress.com)
- Meet Fr. Roderick Vönhogen, the “podcasting priest” (insightscoop.typepad.com)
Posted on December 18, 2013, in Devotions, Theology in Practice and tagged christianity, discipleship, Evangelism, Fr. Roderick Vonhgen, love, Ministry, preaching, relationship with god, Robdert Schuller, Robert Schuller, sharing the gospel, speaking their language, the love of GOd. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.