The boarding prep high school where I work is a diverse community with children and teachers from all over the world. There are twenty-one countries and twenty-six states represented in our population. Needless to say, the language barrier has been known to cause confusion on more than one occasion.
I recently experienced this during a conversation I had with two of our female, Thai students. They were waiting in the auditorium for the drama teacher to give them instructions on what they would be doing. Because there were students on stage rehearsal for the school play, I asked the girls if they were the peanut gallery. They looked at me in confusion and said they were sorry, but they did not have any peanuts with them.
Smiling, I fumbled through an explanation of what I meant, assuring them I meant no disrespect. (For those who are wondering, according to Wikipedia the idiom comes from the vaudevillian era when peanuts were served in that section of the theatre, and if patrons were displeased they would toss nuts at the stage). The students nodded and smiled politely, but I could tell they still didn’t really know what I was talking about.
The experience brought to mind the times I’ve tried to share my faith and fallen into using “church-ese” to explain it; using words such as sin, redemption, justification, and propitiation. Yikes! Most church-goers don’t understand those terms, why would I think a non-believer would get them?
It’s important to meet people where they are, and when someone is learning a new concept, be it math or Christianity, they need a foundation and that includes terminology that doesn’t clutter up the message. So next time you have an opportunity to talk to someone about their need for Jesus, see if you can do it in layman’s terms. Your friends will thank you.
“So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear,
how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.”
I Corinthians 14:10 (NASB)
Linda Shenton Matchett
With a BA in Psychology and Masters in Human Resource Management, Linda Matchett has had a wide and varied career as a crisis counselor, HR generalist, B&B owner and youth center director. She is currently the Front of House, Snackbar & Catering Manager at Brewster Academy. A journalist and blogger, she has written for numerous online and print publications. An author of Christian contemporary and historical fiction, Linda is also a a motivational speaker. Available topics include Life on the (WWII) Home Front, Wartime Baking, Women in the (WWII) Workforce, The Writer’s Life, God in the Workplace, The Proverbs 31 Gal: The Woman We Love to Hate, and Ruth: Lessons from a Foreigner. Linda is a member of First Baptist Church Wolfeboro where she sings in the choir and serves as Church Treasurer and a member of the Fellowship Team.
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