Some friends and I were in a fun discussion the other day about our experiences growing up in churches. We'd all grown up in different types of churches, and were talking about what that was like. And we found that we had an interesting point of connection: at one time or another, we (church-goers!) remember times we've felt like "outsiders" due to a surprising thing: language barriers. Then Annie passed along this video to me:
... I wonder if you can relate. The tricky thing about jargon is that, um, it's jargon. It seems to me like the only people who benefit from jargon are the ones who already speak it. Meaning, there's a (sometimes steep) learning curve for someone who doesn't speak it... you could say there are "barriers to entry". Especially in the 20th century, churches became notorious for producing their own brands of language. If you were already a part of such churches, great! You're in. But for secular, unchurched America, I knew a lot of folks who didn't just feel separated, but alienated. I wish I could cite some case studies, but I'm speaking from experience here so, like, I AM the case study!
So one thing I pitched to our children's leadership team recently is something like: what would it mean for people here in Twin Falls, ID if they didn't have to learn a language at our church (which isn't to say they currently have to. just some rhetorical food for thought)? What if the primary benefit people receive from attending our church is that God does good things for each of us... in the helpful context of a community of people trying to or curious about following him? What if they didn't have to prescribe to a language, political perspective, or particular culture? What if "just being here" was good enough for us to offer love to everyone?
And then I gave some practical suggestions like:
- During class prep, think through every segment of your lesson and ask, "Would someone who has never been to any church understand what I'm saying?"
- Consider more relevant verbiage for phrases like, "the Word", "born again", and "saved". Those phrases require an explanation to someone who is outside of the jargon-bubble.
Have you experienced this insider/outsider situation at church or elsewhere? What's been helpful for you as you relate and connect to other people in overcoming The Language Barrier?