Thoughts from a "Field Guide" discussion
It is always a privilege to connect with groups of aspiring language learners and hear their thoughts, ideas, convictions and their questions about applying the principles and practices found in 1000 Cups of Tea: Field Guide. I recently asked one group to share “next faithful steps” as they read through each chapter. Here’s my summary of what they came up with:
Gospel Fluency means to learn to share the gospel as you learn the language. We need tools, but also a godly reason to learn the language. Come to Christ in prayer. Depend on Christ’s strength.
Living with Eyes Wide Open means sustaining an eternal perspective. It means learning verses, and redemptive phrases from Scripture. It means being intentional, living on purpose. Without purpose, language learning is just…hard. But with God’s perspective, we have a foundation: why we do what we do. The perspective is this: Keeping our gaze on Christ. On his compassion, his heart, his eyes. Abiding in Christ means everything in this pursuit.
The joy/delight of sharing the gospel with our lost neighbors drives our learning. It’s our motivation to learn. Evaluating attitude along with aptitude. Being cautious and aware of an ungrateful attitude. How we say something is as important as what we say. The importance of learning both language and culture. Contextualizing the gospel in a way that hits home to them. Considering the impact of hearing scripture in your own language. Acts 2 exemplifies this.
It's amazing how simple familiar gospel stories connect with how we hear and tell stories (thoughts of orality). When we break down language levels and sequence our learning and communication process, we can start learning short gospel stories even now. Next steps include: identifying Bible stories to learn, then slowly building on them as we learn more language. What an amazing gift to have a language partner willing to listen to the “painful” process of early-on language learning, helping us to improve!
The limitless radius of the gospel. The gospel speaks to people in all contexts. Consider our spheres of influence. The gospel is for everyone! Be culturally aware! Next steps: 1) identify who my neighbors are, share the gospel with them (the story, the meta-narrative), and ask them to share too, with their neighbors. 2) living out Acts 2:39 in the gospel we proclaim 3) identifying bridges to the gospel.
Listening is an investment. So, listen, over and over! With the goal to learn, and to share the gospel. Work on speaking with a heart to hear. Ask questions: Interests, concerns, passions, beliefs. Questions lead to listening. Instead of thinking of the next thing to say or following a communication agenda, just pray. Let this be our model. Learn to listen as a first responder.
Language intelligence (LQ) : “Knowing isn’t knowing unless you know.” Intelligent learning means active engagement. Immersion. Getting out of our comfort zone. Going to church there (not just staying online here). Being intentional. Eating out. Ordering food (even if you get the wrong thing). Learning by engaging intentionally in the language and culture. How you "hold on" to language. How it builds. Continue to practice. Consider spending your first 72 hours in total immersion. Is it even possible? What would happen? Worth thinking and asking about. Not just learning, but loving. Asking myself, “What is my motive?” Practicing spaced-learning. Making every effort to speak in the moment (and not just saying what we’ve memorized).
Deep and wide : The concentric circles of language. Our language grows wider for greater reach, and deeper for more understanding. Identifying 10 barriers and 10 learning zones. Avoid the barriers, implement the learning zone practices. Here's an idea: carry a notebook! Learn God’s word in your new language! Goal: lifelong language learning. E.g., Avoid spending most of your day in English. A good practice: value the importance of “being there” (your ongoing awareness) and learning redemptive language as you learn.
Language 180 : The practice of 60 minutes of gospel content preparation, 60 minutes of deliberate review, and 60 minutes of using what we’ve worked on with our neighbors. Fluently sharing the gospel. Finding resources (e.g., a book that may help) and finding people to help us: language partners, national partners, teammates. Invest in these relationships!
Conversing the gospel in the language means engaging the entire person on all topics of life. Learning to transition between all topics, including the gospel. It means time, with people. It takes 1000 Cups of Tea.
God speaks my language. Anticipate that God wants to use us. Prepare to share our lives. Pray for encounters to share Jesus. Even when we feel we are failing, God will use us.
As pilgrims we are called to a posture of God-dependence. We are also called to form a vision of our L2 self. And we are called to prayerfully seek that vision as Christ is formed in us.
In conclusion, after learning what it means to pursue gospel fluency across cultures, we come back to this pure-truth paradox: we are weak, our language is imperfect, and God is working his grace and strength through all of this. Therefore, 1) pursue God, 2) pursue others as we share the gospel, and 3) pursue learning the language.