Are You Creating Barriers for Newcomers Who Don’t Speak Christianese?

Christianity can be a confusing land to naviagate for newcomers to our faith. How attentive are you to their needs?

I love to fellowship with newcomers who immigrated to Canada. As I was in missions for several years, something deep inside me is fed when many cultures worship together.

Two women from Sudan joined a small group I co-led a few years ago. Work and family responsibilities allowed them to be with us for only a few months. During that time, the ladies entered worship and fellowship as much as possible. But their inability to speak our language made it challenging to communicate. The little English they did speak was a pigeon dialect, and it was sometimes impossible for the rest of us to understand.

Each week these ladies persevered. They fought past their shyness and the fear of being ridiculed. In turn, we tried to reach out to our friends. Using hand gestures and a few words of French and broken English, they shared prayer requests and prayed for the needs of others. We encouraged them to bless us by praying in their mother tongue. They gifted us with their hearts and their trust. They attended our potlucks and sampled our Canadian food with genuine thanksgiving. These ladies were blessed by our friendship even when our manners and customs confused them.

Do we need a Christianese as a Second Language Course for Newcomers?

In the same way, I am drawn to immigrants to Canada; I am attracted to newcomers to my faith. I was once a new believer, and I remember my struggles back then. I didn’t know the language of God’s heart. I was hopelessly confused by Scripture passages that seemed to contradict each other. Not only was the language different, but Evangelical Christian culture was foreign to me. The haphazard rules of etiquette from my partying days were at odds with the church potluck etiquette! Different music, different focuses, different values. I felt inadequate and couldn’t grasp the subtle nuances of the language of the longtime citizens of the land called Faith. These seasoned saints dwelt in this new land a lot longer than I. I wasn’t quite up to their speed and felt like I was lagging behind.

Fortunately, a few folks noticed I struggled to keep up in Bible Studies. They patiently walked along with me, answering my myriad of questions. These wonderful people acted as my tour guides and helped me learn the street maps of my new home; I owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. By welcoming me into their homes and modelling what it looked like to live in a culture of integrity, love, forgiveness, and mercy, they helped me learn skills I would have known no other way.

In 2022, most non-believers in the Western World no longer understand our Christian language. It is, therefore, up to us to communicate the Good News in such a way that others can understand.

Christianity can be a confusing land to navigate for newcomers to our faith. How attentive are we to their needs?

Personal Application

If you have been blessed to have such navigators in your life, then determine to pay it forward. If you’ve not been fortunate to have such people in your life, ask the Lord to help you to start your legacy.

Pray with me

Father God, I thank you for those who guided me through the confusing culture I found myself in as a new believer. May I limit unnecessary Christianese if I am unwilling to explain the terminology graciously. May my eyes and ears be attentive and look out for newcomers who look lost in discussion groups. Holy Spirit, give me discernment and patience when they cannot express what is troubling them in their spirits. Lord, use me as a bridge builder and a gatekeeper. MayI be the first to reach out the hand of fellowship. May I always extend the same grace and love shown to me as a new believer. Give me to tools I need to gently guide the newcomers and the yet-to-arrive into the ways of the Kingdom of God.

Until Next Week

©2022 Katherine Walden

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