Pentecost Speaking and Hearing

May 25th, 2012 Posted in writing

When the Holy Spirit came to the Apostles at Pentecost, they began to preach the gospel in different languages, and people from many different places heard, understood and were converted.

We can learn two things from this: first, the message of the gospel can be expressed in a multitude of words and languages, not just one; second, when people hear the gospel in their words and languages, they listen and respond. One might say that people have a right to hear the gospel in a way that they understand.

That’s why the Christian church has tried, with more success at some times than at others, to be sensitive not to just the message, but also to the audience hearing it. That’s also why it faced special challenges when the cultural language shifted in dramatic ways, as when Europe went from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age, for instance.

The same thing is true in our day. When our culture and language are Science-conditioned, Post-Modern, human-rights-focused and cyber-driven, the church can’t simply repeat the same words that worked in a different age. Such words just won’t be effective.

Our challenge is to speak, with the Spirit’s help, to the people of today in their language. Otherwise the gospel we proclaim is likely to be puzzling at best or, at the worst, incomprehensible.

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