Sunday, March 06, 2011

Integration and the Church

When it comes to building a truly diverse church both mainline and evangelical Protestants do a really bad job about it.  Most churches are still mainly one racial group.  However, a church in Germany seems to be trying a different approach that just might work:

In Bonn, Germany, there is a church called Centrum Lebendiges Wort which has chosen a different approach. Rather than set up a mini-church, they offer interpreting, free of charge, at every Sunday service. The English speakers attend the same service as the German speakers, as do the French speakers and the Chinese speakers. The pastor still preaches in German, but while he preaches, four interpreters at a time interpret his sermon into other languages. They have even gone as far as having multilingual worship: at CLW you find yourself worshipping in German, English, French and even Chinese, all within the same service. Of course, there is much more to a church than Sunday services, but let’s stop there for just now.

What are the drawbacks of this approach? Well, it isn’t cheap. Simultaneous interpreting equipment (sound-proof booths, transmitters, receivers, microphones, headsets) will set you back a good few thousand pounds (or dollars, or Euros). Similarly, interpreting is not an easy skill to master, even for people who speak two languages fluently. Worship in three or four languages takes more effort than worship in one.

Nevertheless, it seems undeniable that this approach is much nearer to integration than creating a mini-church or, worse, not bothering to reach people from other cultures at all. It also seems a lot nearer to what we see in Acts 2, where people from all over the world heard the gospel in the same place, at the same time.

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