Have you ever had to ask for directions in a foreign country?
I don’t mean, what direction to the beach.
Have you ever been lost in a country that speaks a different language and needed to get directions?
When I was a kid, for our family holidays we would have headed off nearly every summer for a few weeks to France with the caravan, stopping in Devon to visit family either on the way to France or the way home. There were many hours spent travelling. Just thinking of Mum having to get my Dad, four kids and a caravan all ready for a holiday then spending the first maybe two days travelling. Wow!!
Sometimes we had breakdowns, sometimes we got lost. There were no game boys or iPhones to keep four kids occupied in the back (come to think of it, no seat belt either with four kids in the back). So just a word-search book and our trusty Walkman. Can you imagine? My kids get bored driving to Tesco. I couldn’t imagine what two days on a motorway would do to my delicate little flowers. Or to my patience as the driver.
Back then in the days of no seat belts and bright yellow Walkmans, there was no google maps or Sat Navs either.
Our sat nav looked like my Mum in the front frantically reading off a massive, foldable paper map, seconds before a junction calling out off here, off here, as we drove straight on past the turn. Then watching for steam coming off Dad’s red face! Good to laugh about now but I think the fact that their marriage survived not only this but many of these adventures says a lot about the deep love and respect they have had for each other for the past almost 50 years. Wow! isn’t that crazy fifty… (like I’d be wanting an OBE or something for that kinda commitment).
I have a very fond memory of one of these times. My Mum’s map reading skills must have failed her and we were lost and had pulled into a service station in France while my parents tried to figure out the next move. Left with no option but to seek help (gasp!! I know a man ask for help? but it’s true we have witnesses), my Dad approached a lorry driver for help. Equipped with his paper map and a very basic understanding of the French language, off he went to speak to this driver. As we eagerly watched we could see Dad point at the map and attempt to ask for directions in French. Now when I say French what I mean is he put a French accent on English words with the odd Qui, thrown in for good measure.
Clearly, this truck driver was highly entertained by my Dad’s desperate appeal for directions with his French twang and let Dad ramble on for a good five minutes before answering, “Yes mate”, in a broad English accent and giving him the directions in English, minus the French twang! (I know right) if only Dad had asked, “parlez vous Anglais?” first. Which by the way was one of the first French sayings we were taught in an attempt to ditch us with new French friends at campsites. The language barrier was never an issue for me, I used to just acquire these new friends everywhere we went. Maybe because I was more a talker than a listener, lol.
Recently I was having a conversation with a much older (longer in her faith, not older in age; ironically they were the same age roughly) Christian than me, and feeling the same discomfort as I imagine my Dad had back in France. Mostly I found myself battling through their Christian lingo, and making a rough attempt to reply in some form of remotely intelligent language so I didn’t look like a complete idiot. Mainly being so distracted by thinking of the meaning of one particularly hard word that I lost track and missed whole sentences of what they said. This never makes for easy conversation.
Now usually this scenario gives me ground for self-loathing and a good old fashioned beat myself up for being stupid session, but I refused to do that. It’s simply a case of we didn’t speak the same God language. Honestly, I wondered did that person speak to non-believers the same way.
So, if it’s a problem that two similarly aged Christian women don’t speak the same God language, what are the hopes of someone who doesn’t know God or the Bible understanding anything when they are looking for the directions to a relationship with Jesus?
Surely this is a big barrier between the church and those who don’t attend church?
I’m very fortunate to attend a church that was has created a come as you are culture for the unchurched so no matter what your background or experience in church life or what you know about God you feel comfortable to come and join us at the whatever stage you are at. That’s what Jesus did and honestly, I think that having this comfortable environment to explore my faith made the difference between me committing to a relationship with God or not!
Besides a few Bible stories, Noah, Moses, Joseph, and David and Goliath, I knew very little about anything biblical or “Christian”. My church’s basic approach to teaching was exactly what I needed to allow me an understanding on which I could build my faith. Our Pastors do an amazing job of preaching the message in a way every week that, should you have never heard a Bible story in your life, you would still understand the biblical teaching behind the story.
And it works for more than just me. The church has grown over the past thirteen years from five in a living room to multiple Sunday services with weeks having more than a thousand people in the building. There is obviously a need for this, and not just from new Christians or people exploring faith. There are people who have been part of our church for the whole thirteen years, a lot of people over ten years.
Are we aware of how we use our Christian lingo around those people who don’t understand? Even those who do know Jesus or the Bible that still struggle with some understanding of Christian buzz words. Believe me, I’m just as guilty of this as the next one. It’s so tempting to impress others with my new wisdom, or perhaps use a quick Bible phrase that cuts down an explanation.
Worship ? What’s that, like singing? Ok, I can do the singing. Witness ? Oh like in court or what? Saved ? Me a seat at the bar? Manifestation ? Man fest ? Sounds good to me!. Grace? Awk yes, that’s what Sadie’s wee grandaughter is called… Atonement? I tell ya what I could do with toning! Incarnate? I’ve got this one!. its someone in jail right?
What seems perfectly normal words to someone with a church background could be completely misunderstood by someone else.
“Your words are so powerful that they will kill or give life, and the talkative person will reap the consequences.”
Proverbs 18:21 TPT
Your words don’t need to be fancy and eloquent to be powerful if you are talking to someone about God. God himself will breathe power into those words. I believe that if this life with God is truly open to everyone, shouldn’t the language be easily understood by everyone as well.
So with that, can I encourage you this week, if you are talking about God or your faith or the changes that have happened to you since you began your relationship with God, that you speak in a language everyone can understand. it could just make the difference between them stepping forward in exploring a relationship with God or not.
How do you find talking about your faith to those who don’t yet have a relationship with God?
How can we make our God language easier to understand? I’d love to hear feedback. let me know how it goes.