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Ten reasons for a more multilingual church August 30, 2019

Posted by Pete B in multilingualism.
Jesus calls us to care for the 1% as well as the 99%

Language can divisive, but it can also open doors, and open ears, and open hearts. Multilingualism isn’t just about the fact that there are many languages spoken in our communities. It isn’t just a matter of justice, representation, inclusion, identity, clear communication and joyful celebration. It’s all of those and more.

I recently attended a church in a town where (according to the last census) 97.9% of people speak English as their first language. The church had a multilingual welcome sign and had been running some international cafe’s to help a small number of people feel a little more more connected. However diverse your local community and your church congregation is here are 10 reasons why you might want to take a few steps to help your church be a little more multilingual.

  1. Because that’s what heaven will sound like –  Scripture says so, and says so in 3000+ languages.
  2. Because that’s what earth sounds like – 7000+ languages – 2000+ available on your phone.
  3. Because that’s what your community sounds like – how many languages are spoken in your local community?
  4. Because that’s not what the church usually sounds like – Sadly it was said over 50 years ago that 11-12 on a Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America, the same may be true now and to too large an extent in the UK and many other countries.
  5. Because language is more than a barrier – when you can’t understand what is being said then language is obviously a barrier, but what if you can understand? Does every language you speak touch you quite as deep as the language (or languages) you use at home. Language isn’t just a barrier, it’s a bridge, or even a key into different parts of people lives.
  6. Because God must speak into every part of our lives – some people who speak multiple languages speak different ones at home, in work, in church, in school, and in other situations. Do some compartmentalise? This may suggest you shouldn’t  only hear about (or be able to talk about) God in the language(s) you speak at home. 
  7. Because unity isn’t about uniformity – if only we all spoke the same language, if only we all thought the same way, if only we all voted the same way, and nobody ever disagreed… just imagine what we could achieve? (are any of you picturing a tower that extends up to the heavens). We are as Christian called to live together in unity, but what unites us is Christ, one Lord, not one language.
  8. Because our language(s) are part of our identity – we need to not overstate it but we need to recognise it our languages are part of identity, It’s one of the reasons why having a national language has been seen as important to nation building, and why eradicating other languages has been part of the strategy of some regimes. But it’s possible to have national and local identity. I’m British, and English, and a midlander.  (did I mention I’m also Canadian). More than all of these I’m Christian.
  9. Because it signals that those of us who have oppressed others are sorry – The majority/dominant cultures have done a lot to stifle and silence other languages, and to oppress other cultures. In the UK the English have done much to eradicate the languages of our own ‘United Kingdom’, and when ‘we’ had an Empire we saw it as our job to use language as part of our dominance and control.
  10. Because it’s beautiful – The lungs add the volume, the throat and mouth control the sounds but worship comes from the heart (or in some translations from the liver). My ears aren’t tuned and trained to appreciate everything as God does, but there is no voice and no language in which the praise of God from a sincere heart is not beautiful.

Stay tuned for more and add your voice using the hashtag #multilingualchurch


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