Monday, May 21, 2007

Words, WOrds, Nothing But Words

As I begin thinking about our Pentecost celebration I find myself mulling over the question of language. This year both readings we are using touch on the topic. In Genesis we hear the Biblical explanation for why we don't all speak the same language. And a major point in the Acts story of the first Christian Pentecost is that all the hearers heard the Good News proclaimed in their own language.

So what challenge does that give us? It challenges us to ensure that we are telling the old story to people in their own language!!!! Thee and Thou are not a big part of many people's language today.

Language is a tricky thing, mainly because it is always (and I mean always) evolving. Not just slang but everyday language changes generationally. Lately it has been even faster. So what language do we need to use? Does it make sense to use shepherding and farming images to inner-city kids who only see food wrapped in plastic wrap on grocery store shelves? What idioms have the meaning that we want to portray when we talk about the Good Shepherd?

In the church we really do need to be multi-lingual--even if we are only using English. What language do we use to tell the Good News to those who are around to hear us?


  1. Answer: whatever gets the message across. Side note--we still as a denomination refuse to speak the musical language of the world at large beyond our walls.

  2. Good post, Gord! I'm pondering the Good Shepherd and what that could be translated to...

  3. As my kids' friends would say -
    what up, dude. good mouthin.

    No seriously - it remains the biggest challenge - walking the line between relevance and irreverence. Unfortunately, for many churches it means "we never did it that way before."

  4. I am the pastor of an incredibly homogeneous congregation - white, retired, middle class, traditional. They are perfectly happy with "traditional" language and images - in fact, they expect it. They know and care little about "pop" culture or language/habits of those who don't walk in their shoes.

    I, on the other hand, worry about losing the ability to speak the good news effectively outside of our happy little camp. Your point is a good one. Suggestions on becoming mulit-lingual?

  5. good question Gord- in my work amongst the New Age Community I have learnt a whole new language- I have also learnt to listen carefully lest I mis-hear what is being said... I think we need to do the same with any cullture we find ourselves planted amongst- or we may just find ourselves divided by a common language!

  6. Great question! Hardest part, of course, is discerning if you are going to share the good news with those who already know it ... or find ways to respond to the great commission and share it with those who still haven't heard it (probably because it hasn't been shared in their language) ... there's words, and music ... and how they hear and experience the words and music (ie: it's an electronic, visual culture folks ... need the overheads and the musical instruments of the day!)