I had an interesting experience this morning.  The church that we attend offers two service choices for the second service:  One is a normal service and one is done completely in Spanish.  My husband is fluent in Spanish, so we decided it might be nice to attend the Spanish service.  As I do not speak Spanish, I was given a small handset with earbuds so that I could hear the translator. As I said before, it was a very interesting experience.  The first part of the service was not translated, so my husband tried to translate the bits that were said between singing worship songs.  It was a little awkward but we managed. I knew a couple of the songs in English, so I was able to worship as well.  When the Pastor began to speak, the translator began to, well, translate.  Unfortunately, my handset was not working very well.  The signal wouldn’t consistently stay on and so the translation was cutting in and out.  It was frustrating.  Someone noticed my struggle and came to help.  She told me to come with her and we went back to the little room where the translator was speaking into the mic.  My handset worked perfectly close to the translator.  I had to sit right outside the little room away from my husband to hear and understand the service.  As I sat there, I looked around and realized that there were several families with toddlers sitting around me.  The kids were staring right at me!  I looked very different from their parents and all of the people that they normally saw.  In a sense, I did not belong there.  I was different.  In a way, it was a bit awkward.  I realized in that moment that I was getting a small taste of what it is to be a minority.  I was the different one this time.  I didn’t speak the language, didn’t understand the customs, and was unfamiliar with the people there.  Everyone was nice to me, and warm and accepting, but I was definitely the minority.  I do not consider myself to be racist or prejudiced in any way, but this experience showed me how easily our differences can define us.

The pastor talked a bit about that.  He mentioned that in the USA one of the most segregated places is in the church.  People kind of separate and gather according to their kind.  White folks have their churches, black people have theirs, Spanish people have theirs, Chinese people have theirs, etc.  While there is some diversity, for the most part people do not intermingle.  It is the one place where that division seems to be the norm.  I think that maybe that is not a good thing.  There is so much that we can teach each other, so many ways that we can love and serve each other. Our cultures can enrich others and we can be enriched by other cultures.  The Bible says that in Christ there really is no viable division that we can have.  No language or culture or tradition can divide the church because it is God’s people that makes up the body of Christ.  It is God’s love that binds us.  Maybe more people need to have their comfort zone challenged like mine was challenged this morning!  I have downloaded an app to help me learn Spanish, and my goal is to become fluent myself in time.  To break down that barrier.  My hope is that I can be a part of the church becoming more accepting of each other’s differences and more comfortable with the diversity that God has placed on this earth.

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Keep it Smaller and Change the World

This weekend was a busy one for me.  On Saturday I attended an all-day women’s event at my church.  Then yesterday morning my husband and I attended services at church and then a class after church.  Last night we attended a home group meeting.  The amazing thing about all of these events was that each event discussed essentially the same topic, which was not something that was planned to be that way.  The women’s event was IF Gathering (IF Gathering website) and was pre-recorded at a recent, nationally-broadcast live event.  Our pastor preached on the next chapter of Acts in a series of sermons based on that book.  The class Sunday afternoon was an informational class about our church as we are fairly new and considering membership.  And our home group has been discussing the same book for months now….last night was just a continuation of that.  None of it was connected except for the fact that it was all centered around our church.  It all was connected because of the theme that just kept making itself known.

The great big word that sums up the theme is “Evangelism.”  It is a word that has come to mean such big things in our culture, and to those who are not believers it has come to mean scary, pushy things.  When one hears evangelist or evangelize, it is easy to conjure pictures of Jimmy Swaggert, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, and even more modern-day folks like Benny Hinn or even pastors like Joel Osteen.  I’m not trashing these people, so please bear with me here.  These people and their ministries are known for going really big…for having a lot of people and TV shows and a lot of opinions that they freely shared with the world.  I am not commenting on their righteousness or their correctness, I am commenting on their showy methods that attract followers.  So many of our local churches today put on a big show, try to do it up really big to attract people.  People feel like church should be entertaining…a show!  Again, I am not putting anyone down here.  I have been a member of or visited many churches who do it big who love the Lord a whole lot and who are trying to reach people for Jesus.

What I learned about this weekend is a version of evangelism that is quiet.  That is more personal.  That involves cookies and milk, coffee, time spent talking and being with someone.  Time building a relationship with someone, quietly, and sharing who you really are is more valuable than anything in making a difference in someone’s life.  When I think back over my life to the moments that have made a difference to me, the things that come to mind are moments with people, quietly loving on me and listening to me.  I can’t think of one big splashy moment that meant anything to me that didn’t involve the intimate interaction of another person.

I learned that my offering people a ride, or going to lunch, or inviting someone over to just hang with us and spending time being real is what I can do to change the world.  Showing love and consideration for others, sharing who I am, sharing my faith and what makes me who I am can help someone else to change.  It can influence someone else to love, to be authentic, and even to find faith.  I don’t have to wait until I can do something big to change the world.  I can care, and change the world that is right around me.  Like a pebble thrown into a pond, the ripples will grow and spread and make a huge wave of difference.