This past Sunday I preached for the first time in the Thai language and I praise God that my Thai brothers and sisters in the congregation at LopburiChurch understood the message and were blessed by it.I made sure I read over the sermon text (sections of Psalm 119) a number of times and had a Thai teacher at our language school help me read over the text to get the correct pronunciation and rhythm of the text.At the very least, I wanted to read the Scripture well and clearly because even if the rest of the sermon were to be a disaster, God’s people would at least hear the inspired Word of God read clearly.
I recorded the sermon with Sun’s phone and when I started to listen to it later that night I immediately knew that I had started off speaking too fast.I was nervous.I had the whole manuscript typed out in Thai although I have trouble reading off a manuscript even in English.However, I wanted to type out the whole thing to help me think through how exactly I would say things in Thai when the time came.Also, I wrote out a manuscript so I could show it to one of the church elders to check the overall flow of the sermon to see if it would make sense to a Thai congregation.English thought patterns and Thai thought patterns are often structured differently and I wanted to make sure I was phrasing things in a more or less Thai way to facilitate understanding.In the end, I didn’t use the manuscript that much when I was preaching because I just am not accustomed to reading off a page verbatim when preaching.The up side of that is that I had good eye contact.The downside is that I wandered around looking for the right word more often than I would have liked.
I know that I made pronunciation and grammatical errors, and that my overall fluency and use of language could use significant improvement.My first foray into Thai preaching reminded me of how I felt the first time I drove stick shift.I more or less knew how I wanted things to go, but there was more stalling out and restarting than I would have liked.However, I am greatly encouraged by the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote to the Corinthian church, saying “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom… my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”(1 Corinth. 2:2-5)
Certainly Paul’s mastery of Greek was much better than my ability in Thai, but it is greatly encouraging to know that even the Apostle did not depend upon his ability to convince and persuade with human language, but upon the Spirit and power of God.In the coming years, I will certainly have many more opportunities to teach and preach in Thai, and my language ability will certainly improve and become more fluent over the years.It is important to learn how to speak clearly and fluently so that people will understand well the message of the cross but even if thirty years down the road I turn out to be a brilliant Thai speaker, the work of convincing and converting sinners is still the realm of the Holy Spirit of God.It is Christ who is building his church, not I.
Praise God that it is Christ building his church but that earthen vessels like myself have the privilege of taking part in that building.Here are a few pictures from the worship service this past Sunday.
Lopburi Church is the oldest church in Lopburi, started about 50 years ago. It has had it's ups and downs and is currently without a pastor. Besides Lopburi Church, there is one other evangelical church in Lopburi, and then a couple Pentecostal churches. None of them are more than 50 members or so, as far as I know. For a provincial captial with probably more than 100,000 people or more, that's not much for churches. Gospel witness in this city and solid Biblical teaching in the current churches is very needed.