Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to learn French, German, Greek, Hebrew, & Elvish. My father is a native Cantonese speaker but the only lines I know are “hello” and “thank you for a good meal” (in the “I was put off by the petrified chicken foot in the broth” sense of the word). Foreign languages are fascinating but I don’t have the aptitude to master one.
I remember being in a Hong Kong taxi trying to get to our hotel room. It doesn’t matter if you speak louder and slower – it’s still not Mandarin (our bilingual room key saved the day). I remember being approached by a French speaking person and my only response was “je suis petite Francais” (I think it means “I am a small Frenchman” or “I am France”).
Here’s my point: If you don’t know the language – you can’t communicate. You are disorientated. You are scared. The same principle applies to our Christian terms and concepts. Consider these three principles:
1. Without the direct work of God, Christianity confuses people. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). The first step in communicating Christianity belongs to the Spirit of God. Pray that God will illuminate your communication.
2. Christianity is accessible to everyone. “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). Communicate simple Bible truths. The best metaphors you can use come from Scripture itself. Jesus used concrete examples to illustrate abstract principles. Don’t ignore rich theological terms – embrace them with a clear definition (catechism is a great way to solidify these terms in your mind as a starting point).
3. Christianity is meant to be modelled. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). People are watching (or laughing at) the way you live out Christianity on a daily basis. This is humbling. In Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, he recounts the story of setting up a confessional booth in the commons of his university. The purpose the confessional booth was not to receive confession but to confess to the curious the sins of the Christian. Forgiveness is a great place to start talking about Christianity.