7 Steps for Preparing to Preach in a Second Language

open bibles english thai greekOne of the major goals that many new missionaries want to achieve is learning how to preach in another language.  But as many missionaries can testify, learning how to engage in small talk and buy things at the market is totally different than standing up to preach.  Public speaking can be intimidating your own language, never mind somebody else’s.  

But even when you can preach confidently in your own language, the reality of preaching in a second language enforces a certain humility upon the preacher. You can never be 100% sure that what is coming out of your mouth is exactly what you want to say, or whether your listeners are understanding the point you are trying to make.  If they aren’t getting it, is it a content issue or a language issue?  Preaching in a second language is fraught with the potential for irrecoverable pronunciation errors and poor word choices.  At the very least, the range and depth of what you are able to express in a second language is somewhat less than what you’d be able to do in your native language.  And even if your language is decent, do you understand the culture?  In addition to an intimate acquaintance with the Bible, ability and fluency in both language and culture are essential for preaching cross-culturally in a second language.  But for newer missionaries (or even more seasoned missionaries), knowledge of both language and culture are a work in progress.

If Jesus Never Rose From the Dead…

Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead, but many don’t know why it matters. Jesus died for our sins on the cross so we could go to heaven. Isn’t that enough? Does the resurrection really add anything to our faith? If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, our sins would still be forgiven, right?

I want you to imagine with me a world where Jesus did not rise from the dead. Jesus is arrested and the disciples scatter. Peter denies Jesus. All the disciples hide because they are afraid they will be arrested and killed next. On Sunday, three women with spices to anoint Jesus’ body approach the tomb and find it closed. The guards turn them away. They go back to the disciples and tell them they couldn’t get in. The disciples stay hidden. There is no Pentecost. Peter did not preach. He went fishing. Three thousand people don’t hear that Jesus conquered sin and death. Eventually, people forget about Jesus and the disciples return quietly to their former lives. Some of them move to distant cities to get away from the Jewish authorities who killed Jesus. The End.

Me and My Awesome, Ground-Breaking Ministry

When I sit down to write a prayer letter, I often feel like I need to come up with something new and exciting to tell my supporters.  After all, they are giving lots of money and praying for us, so I should have something significant to report, thereby justifying my existence.  But I often have trouble figuring out what to write.  Most of the work we are involved is in the category of “slow-and-steady-wins-the-race” and not in the category of “awesome-ground-breaking-pioneer-ministry-look-what-we’ve-done-now!”  Thankfully, the vast majority of our supporters seem to understand that fruitfulness in ministry is a long-term, Holy Spirit wrought endeavor, not just a list of man-driven activities.  Nonetheless, I would feel bad just writing, “Same as last month.  Keep praying.  Thanks” and then sign off.  So I need to write something.  It needs to be accurate, informative, interesting, and not overstate the what we are really doing.  On slow months, when not much new is happening, that last one is difficult.

Is Facebook Good Pastoral Care?

In 2008 I was on a short home assignment in the U.S. when my brother introduced me to something called Facebook.  I had never seen it before but was hooked instantly.  However, as time has wore on, Facebook (and Twitter) have changed from an exciting way to connect with people to something a bit more tedious, and a bit less personal.  Judging by the number of people deactivating their Facebook accounts these days, it seems that others are having a similar experience.  

As Christians got on the social media bandwagon, numerous blog posts and magazine articles appeared, warning that if Christians failed to get with the times, they would miss out on fantastic possibilities for evangelism and discipleship.  If your church or ministry did not have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, you would become irrelevant.  And irrelevance is the thing that evangelicals seem to fear most, even more than sin itself.  However, as that wave passed, a small deluge of books (both Christian and secular) have begun to appear, calling into question the utopian claims of digital media. People have started to notice the effect that social media and perpetual connectedness are having on them.  And not everyone likes what they see.

Friends: A Key to Survival on the Mission Field

friends globe canstockphoto3792009There are lots of reasons why missionaries go home.  Team conflict. Marital conflict. Conflict with leadership.  Wrong expectations.  Lack of success in ministry. Lack of financial support.  Children’s education.  Career change.  Continuing education. Health problems. Infidelity. Apostasy. War. Visa revoked.  The list could go on.  

But one of the reasons that I rarely hear is a lack of friends.  Of course, it would be difficult for anyone to really admit that a lack of genuine, deep, friendships on the mission field is the reason they are going home.  It just sounds wimpy to say, “I am going home because I am lonely and don’t have any friends.”  That’s the kind of thing that you would expect a seven year old to say when leaving the playground, but not a mature adult who has committed their life to serving the Lord overseas.  That notwithstanding, I am convinced that a lack of friends, or at least the lack of one or two close friends, is a significant reason why many missionaries don’t make it on the mission field long-term.  It is never the only reason, but when all those other reasons to give up are crashing over our heads like so many waves, close friends can help us swim against the current instead of sinking in rocky waters.

[Video] Tracing 175 Years of Thai Protestantism

The short 20 minute video that you'll find below is a good overview of the birth and history of Christianity in Thailand.  It was prepared for the 2003 celebration of 175 years of Protestant Christianity in Thailand, counting from 1828 when Karl Gutzlaff and Jacob Tomlin arrived as the first two Protestant missionaries.

There is also a Thai-language book that goes along with the video, called "๑๗๕ ปี พันธกิจคริสต์ศาสนาโปรเตสแตนต์ในประเทศไทย, ค.ศ. ๑๘๒๘-๒๐๐๓" (175 Years of Protestant Christian Ministry in Thailand, 1828-2003).  The book is currently out of print but should be able to be found in libraries of seminaries and bible colleges in Thailand.

If you don't see a video above, click here to watch it on Youtube.

 

 

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