Do you speak English? Hablas Ingles? Parla Inglese?

Bilingual Ministries

Most of you know what the first phrase is, and maybe some of you know the second, but most probably don’t catch the last one. It is in English, Spanish, and Italian.

I have a sensitive heart when it comes to bilingual, translating and interpreting ministries. Ministries whose focus is to bring the Word of God in a clear and concise manner to all languages. Multi lingual preaching and teaching is the churches jugular vein.

However, because of this I have been bothered by the consistent neglect, abuse and just plain out embarrassing attempts to do this work.

Neglect

The neglect worries me due to  the fact that the gospel is not a “American Religion”. The English language does not hold the market to good and helpful material (books, sermons, and teachers) for the body of Christ. The Gospel of Matthew in its last chapter most directly teaches us that the Gospel was not to be limited to the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic languages. That it was to incorporate itself in every tribe, people, and culture. One of those bridges that would need to be crossed, was the bridge of language.

Many churches, and what I have seen, predominantly American and Latino-American local bodies either fear the idea of creating a multi-lingual community or water down the gospel so far that if a English speaking church has a Spanish outreach ministry; deeper study of the word is not even mentioned, but is kept under the banner of, “Do not open until …”.

Sometimes it is understandable. Sometimes some congregations do not have the resources or the leadership to embark on such a task to reach all the language groups within their local community. However, the bells of Matthew 28 continues to be rung.

Abuse

How can the Multi-lingual ministry be abused?

Well, it isn’t so much the actual ministry but instead, the abuse is of those who are called to minister the secrets and depths of the everlasting word of God, the ill prepared translators.

I share with you, my reader, one of the most heart breaking stories I have experienced with having to translate for a speaker… a funeral for a 22 year old man. I don’t want to overly narrate this story but drop a comment if you would like me to write more extensively over this experience.

But a youth had suffered a tragic accident which took his young life. I was called last minute to come and translate for the assigned speaker, being that the speaker only spoke Spanish but 80 percent of the attendees were Chicano (American born descendent of Latinos) who didn’t speak and understood very little Spanish, I began to worry.

The fields were ripe for the gathering of the harvest. The deep intense reality of death was upon the shoulders of every man, woman, and teen that was present. It was a solemn occasion that assured a response and reaction to the gospel.

What was the problem? The problem was that the gospel was not clearly presented that day.

It wasn’t the speakers fault, it was actually mine. I had not known what the sermon outline was, and I had to speak with phrases and concepts that made no sense in English. There was a chance to touch the mind and heart of the hearers, and it was an swing and a miss.

I tell you my story with the purpose of showing you the burden that often accompanies the translator. If the minister feels overly stricken by the pressure of presenting the Word, how much more will the translator feel when he fails to present the glorious gospel clearly.

Call to Action

I must end this post but I make a plea.

To those who are multi-lingual and those who are in position of leadership.

We must have a mind for a multi ethnical church. I don’t mean a local church body that fits a certain demographic, but a heart to understand that we must preach to all kinds of people. Not only preach the gospel, but also train them up sufficiently, to do the same.

If you have an opportunity that there are different language groups within your local community, you must go and reach those people as well. If you know of churches that have those capabilities and have the man power to teach in other languages but lack resources and support, be the one who reaches out to them as you would do to missionaries.

The heart of the gospel is, God loved the world so much… that means every people group; all languages must be used as a mean to translate the message of the gospel.

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