“Christians are people who have faith in the Gospel of Jesus; his salvation of grace.”
If you were to say this sentence to your neighbour, how much would they understand? My guess is, less than you think!
When we were first in Kenya, my Bible study was made up of well-educated Kenyans. They were reading through a book called Encouragement, by Larry Crabb. After that, I suggested we read from the Bible. The whole group explained that we couldn’t. There were so many words we could not understand. If we were to study the Bible, we would have to ask a trained Pastor to join us so he could explain it to us.
I was absolutely shocked by this. Shocked that they had never studied the Bible themselves, and shocked they thought it wrong to even read it themselves.
60 years previously, the first translators of the Bible into Swahili tried very hard to use the most technically correct words. But some were not in common use. The result was the Bible gained a sense of ‘magic’ about it because it contained special words that only specially trained people would know.
At our Easy English congregation at St Michael’s, I try to avoid words that are not commonly used in normal language by normal people. I prefer to use a common word in its place. Why would you use a word you had to explain? Yet as Christians, we do this all the time – often with the explanation!
– Gospel is an old English word for the Greek good news, so why not use good news?
– Faith in our society was redefined in the 1960s to mean a leap into something that can’t be known. The Bible uses faith to mean a trust in something (or someone), you can know so well you can depend on it.
– Grace to many Roman Catholics is a special power God gives so a person can obey him enough to deserve heaven. In the Bible grace simply means generosity.
– When did you ever hear on the news of the SES conducting a salvation of someone trapped on a cliff?
If we are to speak to people around us, we need to speak their language, and not insist they learn our language – ask any missionary who has gone to a foreign nation. Otherwise, we might as well still use the Latin on Sundays. (Note: the Latin word for nation is gentile. Gentile has never had been an English word, yet our Bibles still use gentiles to refer to people of the nations.)
Language is dynamic: it changes, then changes again. We need to use words that people around us use today in the way they use them; we need to speak their English.
Christians are people who trust in the good news of Jesus; his generous rescue. Do you think your neighbour might find this sentence a bit easier to understand?
Easy English Pastor