Clear communication is important when daring to invite, welcome, and assure people of God’s unshakable love . . . and of your own. Some dismiss this text as rules for “speaking in tongues” Pentecostal communities. But it calls the church to clear, impactful communication . . . always.
Traditional church language has become an unknown tongue in a world in which 80 percent of 20-year-olds in America have never been to church, temple or synagogue. Expressions like “doxology” and “the Lord’s Prayer” are foreign to most unchurched guests. And yet we think nothing of speaking this foreign language to guests — something polite people aim to never do. I write this from a train station in Cardiff, hearing instructions in both Welsh and English.
Not knowing when to stand or sit, when to read the bulletin or screen, and trying to sing words without music or instruction, make even the “smartest” guest feel stupid and like an outsider in both traditional and contemporary worshiping communities. Is it any wonder some guests do not return? Why give up a Sunday morning and go to a place that makes you feel inadequate, unwanted, outside, and confused — and perhaps never greeted. What do our actions communicate about God and church?
Giving advice to younger clergy on the 50th anniversary of his ordination, an elderly retired minister said, “Every time you stand to break open God’s word, remember that someone’s life may depend on what you say or do not say. Prepare well and be clear.”
Worship and communion do not end with the benediction or parting blessing — they begin there. Let us take God’s Presence, Spirit, and Jesus’ embodiment into the world and be clear. Someone’s life today may depend on it — perhaps without you knowing.
Gracious God, we are blind to many of our assumptions. Open our eyes and ears. Forgive us, please. Help us embody Your extravagant Love and Grace with people we encounter today, including those closest to us. May the Holy Spirit touch the ears of the hearers when we fail and forget. Amen.
– source unknown