I had the opportunity to preach at a Korean church yesterday. It was definitely a different kind of an experience. I’m not sure if your experience at the church where you attend is anything like mine, but typically the American church experience goes something like this:
1. Arrive 5 minutes late.
2. Sit in the back.
3. Say hey to a couple of friends on your way to lunch.
My experience yesterday flew in the face of this, in a good way. The music started 20 minutes before the service started, to get people in the mood to worship. We sang hymns (first in Korean, then in English for the few English-speaking spouses…and me and my family), read Scripture (again, first in Korean, then in English), heard announcements (I don’t think I have to say it again, but I will anyway…first in Korean, then in English), then I preached…first in English, then in…just kidding. I preached, then the English-speaking people were dismissed while the Korean pastor preached. We discussed the implications of my sermon, very much like what we do in small groups at Grace Community Church. After that, everybody stayed around to eat lunch and fellowship.
Here’s what struck me: when the congregation was worshipping in Korean, I had no idea what they were saying. I don’t speak or read Korean. However, I knew what they were doing. I could tell that they were worshipping, and were going at it with all of their hearts. I so wish I could have joined in their songs and prayers. But I had to wait until they spoke my language.
In your church, are you “speaking another language”? You may be communicating in English, but are you using words that outsiders don’t know? Do people who attend your church have to have a theological degree, or at least have been going to church for their whole lives, in order to follow you as you preach, pray, and sing? Is the theological vocabulary you are armed with alienating “outsiders?” If I remember correctly, Jesus could communicate the life-transforming power of the Gospel to the Pharisees AND the people who had no clue about Scripture.
This is not a call to “dumb down” your worship services. This is a call to make them accessible to a wide audience. Not by muddling the truth and preaching a false Gospel. Preach the Truth! But preach it in a way that lost people are left with a choice to respond to the Gospel…not merely wondering what “atonement,” “depravity,” “Gospel,” “redeemed,” and the vast array of other insider language that we use.
May those we minister to be left amazed by the love of our Savior and not the complexity of our language.