What Our Languages Are Telling Us – John Chandler – Baptist News Global

What our languages are telling us

What is the language reach of your congregation?

By John Chandler

Language creates culture. What we say, and how we say it, not only reflects who we are but also shapes what we will become. With that in mind, we can forecast where the world is heading by watching what languages are ascending and descending.

BBC research estimates that up to 7,000 different languages are spoken around the world. Ninety percent of these languages are used by fewer than 100,000 people.

Over a million people converse in 150-200 languages, and 46 languages have just a single speaker. (How exactly is it a language if only one person speaks it?)

Some 2,500 languages are at risk of extinction, with one quarter of the world’s languages spoken by fewer than 1,000 people. Interestingly, 2,200 of the world’s languages can be found in Asia, while Europe has a mere 260. The boats to the U.S. will be coming across the Pacific, not the Atlantic.

The world’s most widely spoken language, both native and learned as a second language, is Mandarin Chinese. English is second. UNESCO fills out the rest of the top 10 as follows: Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, Bengali, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, German and French. Honestly, who saw Bengali that high?

For native English speakers, the five most difficult languages to learn are Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese and Korean. The old international joke holds true: “There are three kinds of people: multi-lingual, bi-lingual and American.”

This is becoming more problematic for the church, because 75 percent of the world’s population doesn’t speak a word of English. Believing we can reach today’s world with the gospel in English only is like opening a shoe store that only plans to stock Size 9.

The United Nations uses six official languages to conduct business. The European Union has 23 official and working languages. What is the language reach of your congregation?

It may well be that one of the major reasons to connect with a denomination in the future is that that denominations may become the most strategic way to fulfill the vision of Revelation 7:9: A multitude in heaven “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”

OPINIONViews expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.

“3 Ideas to Keep Your Online Discussions Civil” Terrell Carter – www.ethicsdaily.com

3 Ideas to Keep Your Online Discussions Civil | Terrell Carter, Civility, Disagreement

One would think that this diversity in opinion would be seen as a good thing. Unfortunately, this is not how many of us feel, Carter says. (Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

With the headline-grabbing political, racial and social events that have occurred in the U.S. over the past few months, people have had a lot to talk about.

From videos of brutality committed by both police and citizens, to the expanded attention toward domestic violence prompted by the misconduct of NFL players, to the rise of new terrorist groups like ISIS, to the spread of Ebola from another country to the United States, all forms of media are buzzing with commentary on these and other issues from both informed and uninformed contributors.

In today’s vastness of media options, anyone with an opinion on any subject can find a way for their voice to be heard.

From Facebook to Twitter to Snapchat to traditional radio call-in shows, there’s a medium for every person to have their say.

The opinions being expressed are as diverse as the media platforms available to make opinions heard.

One would think that this diversity in opinion would be seen as a good thing. Unfortunately, this is not how many of us feel.

We all regularly hear and read arguments between people standing on differing sides of an issue that would make the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys look like a kindergarten class tug-of-war.

Unfortunately, these arguments seem to be less about the issues being discussed and more about the fact that someone does not see the world the same way as I do. The fallout from these types of arguments can be dramatic.

We have all read posts from friends promising to never use Facebook again because people have been insensitive toward them.

We have all read comments posted by participants on a website classifying any group other than theirs as less than human.

We have all heard about family members who no longer associate with each other because they have offended each other to the point of no return.

As I hear and read these types of interactions on a daily basis, I am left with the question, “Who would Jesus ‘un-friend’?”

With so many lines being drawn in the sand, is there a way to wade through the unfriendly and unproductive chatter that is voiced so frequently?

I have three ideas that should help us all navigate the process of expressing our own opinions without making someone who disagrees with us into unnecessary villains.

First, we have to remember that disagreement is not a sin or an unforgivable offense.

We are not all required to think alike or to feel the same way about anything. Varying opinions are valuable.

Independent thought is admirable and has led to some of the more important discoveries and advances in the world.

History is replete with examples of people who held well-reasoned dissenting views being justified for their independent thoughts.

We can respect another person’s right to hold an opinion just as we want them to respect our right to do the same.

Second, we have to realize that wisdom can come in many ways, even if it does not come in ways that we anticipate.

Even though I am a Christian, I personally appreciate and cherish the opinions of my friends and family who do not hold to any religious faith.

I intentionally ask for the opinions of people who do not hold to the same positions that I do. I do this because I have learned that wisdom is not only found in my belief system.

Wisdom can be found in the experiences of people who worship God or in the experiences of people who do not recognize any god.

I have learned that those who may have differing values from me still care about the same things that are important to me and my family. We have a common foundation as humans.

Third, we must learn to distinguish between the person sharing their opinion and the issue being discussed.

The totality of a person, or a group of people, is not found only in what they think about a particular subject or the stance they take on a politically charged issue.

As much as we try, the totality of a person or group cannot be adequately summed up by their opinion on one subject.

My hope is that we would all do our due diligence and think through our own opinions before we critique those held by someone else.

If we are able to learn how to communicate more effectively with each other, we may be able to make substantial progress toward living together in peace instead of living separately in fear of each other.

Terrell Carter is minister of administration at Third Baptist Church in St. Louis and director of the Foundations in Ministry program for Central Baptist Theological Seminary in St. Louis.

What It Takes to Model Humility – Molly Marshall – www.ethicsdaily.com

What It Takes to Model HumilityMolly Marshall

What It Takes to Model Humility | Molly Marshall, Humility, Philippians

One who understands incorporation in Christ knows that one must also follow the pathway of humility, Marshall writes.

Few passages in the New Testament rival the great Christ hymn of Philippians, which offers a three-stage Christology: pre-existence, incarnation and exaltation. Theologians just love this kind of symmetry!

In just a few verses of Philippians 2, Paul spells out the downward mobility of Jesus and invites us to embark on the same pathway.

The very Word of God, the living Christ, takes the form of a slave, after the likeness of humanity.

He does not cling to equality with God, although in God’s relational self-giving, both Spirit and Son are fully personal and fully God.

Rather, he empties himself for our sakes. The Greek word “kenosis” carries rich meaning, and it discloses how God is present in Jesus.

A key phrase in this passage is “he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death” (Philippians 2:8).

Paul goes further to say “even death on a cross,” which was the most excruciating and tortuous death he knew.

There is no atonement theory offered in this text; it simply delineates the extent of his mission: serving others even at the risk of dying.

Humility is the master virtue, according to the ancient Abbas and Ammas of the desert monastic tradition.

As Roberta Bondi writes, “Humility accepts our human vulnerability and the fact that we sin. It is not so overwhelmed by human weakness that it is left paralyzed, thinking over its inadequacy.”

When one no longer has to preserve a heroic self-image, one can begin to empower others with collaborative insight.

Humility requires a generous hospitality, not simply thinking about one’s “own things,” but capacious welcome, creating space for others.

When one understands one’s role within the larger body of Christ, there is less anxiety about being “solely responsible,” which allows a greater humility.

Jim Collins, researcher and writer about great organizations and great leadership, names humility as the key quality for effective leaders.

In his study of those companies who moved from “good to great,” he identifies the essential quality of “extreme personal humility” for effective leaders.

One who understands incorporation in Christ knows that one must also follow the pathway of humility.

Humility helps us find those tasks that no one else is eager to do. Humility listens to stories recounted again by our elders.

Humility prompts us to “regard others as better than ourselves.” Humility helps us to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit” (Philippians 2:3).

Humility allows us to be patient with children, even when they prove contrarian or in the crass calculus of the economy, insignificant.

Humility reminds us “it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for God’s own good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). For this, we give thanks.

Molly T. Marshall is president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary (CBTS) in Shawnee, Kansas. A version of this column first appeared on her blog, Trinitarian Soundings, and is used with permission. You can follow CBTS on Twitter @CBTSKansas.She is a favorite speaker at the Hamrick Lectureship in Charleston,SC.

Welcoming the stranger = Amy Butler

By Amy Butler

It’s a pretty commonly accepted biblical mandate that we welcome the stranger. As we’ve witnessed in the news of late, in our better moments we people of faith can manage to cross wide valleys of opinion to agree on that sentiment. It occurred to me recently, however, that we make these determinations around occasional issues, and most frequently from the position of establishment — we’re rarely the strangers. We can be good about quoting Scripture, but I wonder if a change of perspective would make us even more vigilant about radical welcome.

What does it feel like to be a stranger? After my first week in a brand new city, I began to remember what, honestly, has not been a common experience for me. And, while acknowledging that my experience of being a stranger has very little desperation associated with it, this brush with being new has reminded me just a bit of what it might feel like to really be a stranger in a strange land.

The first thing I experienced in force was anonymity. While navigating the world with no recognition from the folks around you can be freeing, there’s also something a bit unmooring about it. When nobody trains their eyes on you with recognition, it’s easy to feel a bit adrift. The freedom to fly beneath the radar comes at the price of irrelevance. And I remembered: we all need to be recognized, to fill a role in the lives of those around us.

Being a stranger also comes with a strong discomfort. Nothing feels quite normal; everything is brand new. As soon as the excitement of the brand new passes, however, a nostalgia for the familiar rises to the surface. It’s not that the familiar was especially better but the territory was navigable. As feeling uncomfortable has been a constant companion in these days, I remembered: we all long for familiarity and comfort.

And this experience of constant newness brings to mind the built-in sense of incompetence that comes with being a stranger. Need to get across town? Milk for your cereal? A doctor? These are all puzzles of varying degrees, at first presenting a challenge but shortly growing tedious. As these experiences fill each day, the constant feeling of incompetence humbles, then wears down the spirit. Reminder: competence and value go hand in hand in our society; it’s discouraging to live with a steep learning curve.

With the incompetence of newness, the stranger finds himself in constant need of help. Asking for help isn’t always the most comfortable exercise, and living life as a constant receiver can be frustrating. To learn the art of accepting help can be a challenge for those of us who are accustomed to being on the other end of the equation.

I’ve noticed and tried to mark something especially valuable in the experience of the stranger. Strangers see the world around them with new eyes. In that little window of time before anonymity becomes familiarity, discomfort relaxes into ease, incompetence develops skill, constant receipt gives way to opportunities for generous welcome to others, the stranger can see her world with a clarity familiarity does not afford.

And that gift of new eyes may be worth the pain of newness. Once everything starts to feel a little more normal and I’m the one giving out advice on subway routes, I hope I can remember what I saw when I was the stranger. With that memory, perhaps a stranger’s perspective can more powerfully inform the way I navigate my comfortable world.

And welcoming the stranger might become, not an issue-specific anomaly, but rather a regular Christian practice.

Reflections on Racism – Dr. Molly Marshall

Trinitarian Soundings

Posted: 30 Aug 2014 03:10 PM PDTI have been hesitant to write about the events in Ferguson, MO, over the past couple of weeks because of fear of insensitive or simplistic response to this human tragedy.  I have feared that one more ponderous white voice, which hardly can plumb the depths of black umbrage in the face of white privilege, would not be helpful.  I am, at heart, an academic, who tends to prolong thinking at the expense of action.  Keeping silent, however, gives the impression of lack of care or negligence in the face of ongoing racism in our neighboring city, St. Louis, or our own Kansas City, which has its own racial dividing lines.  I cannot fathom the despair of black parents who do all they can to prepare their children for the disparity in educational, financial, and social dimensions of 2014 American life.I am a child of the pre-segregation South/Southwest, albeit Oklahoma did not fit neatly into the protracted civil rights journey of Alabama and Mississippi, and other states of the Deep South.  Yet, the bigotry of Jim Crow shaped my educational experience, also.  We had two high schools in my hometown of Muskogee—Central High School and Manual Training—the former white, the latter black.  Even the name of the black high school indicated a prejudice about academic promise.

I remember when my home church took a vote on whether to admit black members of the congregation.  It was not a placid business meeting in the late 60’s, and I wondered about the ferocity of the argument.  It seemed at odds with our understanding of the Gospel, yet parochial tradition retained a strong voice. The stain of racism has blemished many a Baptist church, my own included.  Hence, it would be only fair to describe myself as a “recovering racist.”

ey might be one.” Yet, we cannot spiritualize the real acts of violence that are based in racial prejudice.Central strives to be a school that “flattens” educational privilege.  This means that we are intentional about whom we will scholarship and how we will build diverse cohorts.  We are learning that white churches and black churches and immigrant churches need one another to live into the dream of Jesus’ prayer—“that th

Several of Central’s alums have been close to the bloodstained drama unfolding in Ferguson.  Ministering in neighboring communities, they have drawn near to the need for pastoral care, thoughtful interpretation of what they have observed on the ground, and relevant advocacy for justice. The Director of Social Media for Central, Francisco Miguel Litardo, felt drawn to be present to the critical events in Ferguson, especially the ways in which pastoral care has been offered to the suffering.  I give thanks for his presence and willingness to provide images of what has been transpiring.

Central is aware that we are still viewed as a “white” institution, even thought we are not majority white.  While that is our historic identity, the presence of many others, all a part of the family of God, is transforming us toward the goal of racial equity.  For this, we are grateful.

            Molly T. Marshall Dr. Marshall is president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary. She has spoken twice at the Hamrick Lectureship at Fist Baptist Church of Charleston, SC.


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