A biker walked into Church and was asked by the Vicar “have you been washed in the blood of the lamb?” So the biker hit him and stormed out, later asked why he did this the Biker said “that Vicar said that I smelt!”.
-Think about it, something had got lost in translation!
What one person was asking was vastly different from what the other was hearing, the transmitter and the receiver were on completely different frequencies.
In the Ordinal (the service where Vicars get vicared!) there is a phrase about “preach the gospel faithfully afresh in every generation”. I worry that in practice what we do is we simply just “preach the gospel again in every generation”. Yet the more we do this we run the risk of the message we transmit becoming harder and harder to receive for the generation who understand less and less what we are saying.
This problem is compounded by so many of us being so embedded in the culture of the transmitters we cannot work out why the message is failing to connect -often we try doing it louder with day-glo posters by our Churches, cringe-y bumper stickers or ranting on a street corner preachers, which may be louder but isn’t clearer.
When a frequency is wrong when we turn up the volume we make both the message and the distortion louder.
Instead, we need to learn afresh how to speak in a way and language the hearers can receive as the book of Acts says about the Pentecost birth “each of us heard in their own language”.
Paul was very good at this, he was prepared to ditch most of his cultural baggage -even changing his name from Saul to Paul, cross-cultural-mission transformed his identity.
Just contrast Peter’s message in Jerusalem in Acts 2 with Paul’s message in Athens to a pagan society with the altar to the unknown God (Acts 17). Same message but delivered differently so that the hearers to respond to the message of Christ.
I have often used the image of David trying to fight Goliath in Saul (different Saul)’s armour which constrained and suffocated him, and yet David’s victory was won by his rejection of the conventional thinking and in faithfulness to God’s new way.
So, let’s think afresh about our culture and the keys that our missional God sows liberally through out his world that -like the altar to the unknown God- can enable life transforming conversations to be birthed.
I was at CMS last month and someone said “I worry that the word ‘sin’ has been distorted in our culture to be about cup-cakes and lingerie…” -how do I talk about these things in a way people can hear and understand.
And that’s where I’m going to leave this blog, because that friends is our job, how to speak the message of Christ into the context God has placed us in a way that people can understand and respond to… now our cross cultural mission can be a simply walk accross the street as the wierd world of Church culture is increasingly alien to more and more people.