Since my first foray into the blogosphere my tag line was “trying to catch the view from some big shoulders.” Now it says “Christianity as a second language.” What’s up with that?
My core mission is still the same: I’m mining the best of the Christian past to find wisdom for faithful effective discipleship now and into the future. I still think we all need to stand on the shoulders of giants.
The new tagline tries to get to the need I think my potential readers feel — the need I want to address in my writing and teaching.
There was a time in this culture when people grew up with Christianity as their first language. The church, as well as many other aspects of life and culture, taught a good deal of basic Christianity. You could assume people knew the narrative line of the Bible, its characters and themes, and a good deal of theological vocabulary.
That day is gone, gone, gone.
Today people learn all these things as a second language, or they don’t learn them at all. And if we don’t understand the language, we are going to be frustrated and ineffective as disciples.
- New converts need to learn Christianity. Nobody expects them to understand the Bible, or basic Christian teachings and practices until they’ve been taught.
- Truth be known, many of us who have grown up in the church need to revisit it as well. We have too often assumed that people know the basics. It is easy to find people committed to preserving the institution but inarticulate about its nature and purpose.
- Some who are trying hardest to grow in new ways would do well with a refresher course too. Try to invent the faith for a new generation and basics and essentials can be left behind — or very old problems can be unthinkingly renewed.
If you have ever studied a language you did not grow up speaking, you will have seen how the new language prompts new ways of thinking and understanding everything in life. You get hints of that in your first year of language study — but you know even then that fluency is going to take time and effort.
Fluency is what we need as Christians. We need more than the initial commitment to follow Jesus — to be “Christ followers” as we say today.
- We need to immerse ourselves in Christ, drawing close in prayer.
- We need to immerse ourselves in Christ’s world by a rich and broad exploration of the Bible.
- And we need to immerse ourselves in the great conversation among Christ’s people of the last 2000 years — theology, that is. Theology is the ongoing attempt to understand and talk about what God is trying to reveal to us in Christ and the Bible.
It takes time and effort to gain that fluency whether we just converted to the faith or grew up in it. We need to get fluent, to come to understand and relate to life and the world through an immersion in Christianity.
- Get fluent in Christianity and we’ll be much more confident and much more competent as Christ’s followers.
- Share a language and maybe we’ll be able to know ourselves as the community of those united to Christ.
- Share a language and maybe we’ll be able to serve Christ’s purposes together, reaching out to the world God so loves.
That’s why I’m blogging about the things I do. This includes topics like
- saints as role models and mentors,
- movements with ways of being Christian community that sparked discipleship and mission and
- the Heidelberg Catechism.
The Heidelberg Catechism isn’t the only summary of the Bible’s teaching. It is, however, a very fine and fluent expression of Christian teaching.
We can have a pretty good conversation if we bring our own individual perspectives into dialogue with the Bible and a classic summary of the Christian teachings.
Think of it as a language learning lab.
What do you think of my new tag line?
What do you think hinders and helps people become “fluent” in Christianity?
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