“The mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.'” ~Isaiah 2:2-3
“There before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb…And they cried out in a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'” ~Revelation 7:9-10
You know my dream is to ultimately see our church body at Legacy accurately reflect the uniting force of the Gospel. My vision is that all our Spanish-speaking members and all our deaf members come together to worship our Lord in the same assembly on Sundays. Full integration. Not segregation. The birth, life, teachings, ministry, death, burial, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus breaks down all the barriers between us. It destroys the things that separate us. In Christ there are no divisions, no walls. We’re one. We’re equal. We’re all in the same family. And the family should model that.
So, how do we do this? Is it impossible? Do we keep our Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters out in the fellowship hall or tucked away in an upstairs classroom? Or do we sacrifice and bend and give and do whatever it takes to bring them fully into the family?
One of the cover stories in the July Christian Chronicle, “Are Churches Reaching New Americans?” chronicles the efforts of several churches to unite their English and Spanish speaking members into one united body. The trick, it seems, is to realize that language is not a barrier. It’s not easy. It presents challenges. But it’s not impossible.
Daniel Rodriguez, a professor of religion and Hispanic studies at Pepperdine, puts his finger on the fallacy of the language issue. “The fastest growing churches have realized that language is not a barrier. They have recognized how to reach the grandmother who speaks only Spanish and her grandchildren who speak English.”
The Inland Valley Church of Christ in California has about 120 members, 50 of whom speak primarily Spanish. But most everything they do in their assemblies is in English. They provide headsets and live translation. The lyrics to the songs appear on the screens in both languages. One of the Inland Valley ministers, Tom Allen, says, “As we interact, we come to care for each other. When people love each other, they’ll accommodate.”
Wow. That’s the key, right? Instead of focusing on the little differences among us, zeroing in on the huge eternal things we have in common through the blood of Christ Jesus.
I know at the North Davis Church in Arlington, our Lord’s Supper time was bilingual. A prayer and/or Scripture reading in English and in Spanish. Both. Every time. Worshiping together around the common table. Yes.
The foreign-born population in the U.S. is reaching 15-percent. More than one million legal immigrants earn U.S. citizenship every year. Most Hispanic people in Texas my age or younger, and virtually all people the age of my children and younger, speak both English and Spanish. Language is not the barrier.
Is it custom? Is it culture? Is it fear? What is it? I hate to think our schools and our government buildings and our restaurants and our soccer teams and our Wal-Marts and our media can integrate and bring people together better than our Gospel.