Language elements spur MBC church strategist
SPRINGFIELD – Sitting in a breakout session in a March meeting at the North American Mission Board (NAMB), Ken McCune of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) church planting staff had a bit of a vision of what God will be requiring of people in his position in the years to come.
McCune saw missionaries/strategists from Anglo America, Puerto Rico, Korea, Chile, China and El Salvador. His eyes kept scanning, and men from Lebanon, the Philippines, Anglos from Canada and African-Americans came into view. McCune speaks fluent Spanish besides English, but at that moment he was struck by how many languages were represented in the room, and how vast the task of world evangelization is for a man like himself, who is based in Springfield as an MBC church planting strategist.
“It’s going to take all of us to be able to reach Missouri, the United States and the world,” McCune said. “We’ve got to have all of it. It just really impressed me as I looked out there, thinking, ‘God’s using every one of these people in some way. Nobody can reach everybody, but all of us can (reach the nations), working together.’”
Speaking more than one language, as McCune does, is important, but McCune began to think that there are at least three broad categories of languages that all believers must possess in order to share the Good News of Christ and plant healthy, reproducing churches.
First, the language of the nations must be spoken. By that McCune means a Missouri Christian ought to try to connect on a more personal level with someone from another culture.
“For someone who’s ever learned a second language, you can tell that you do the best you can, and you can even feel pretty good about it, but there’s always something about that first language that you learn and grew up in that’s even deeper seated in your heart and in your lifestyle,” he said. “It’s the heart language of a person.”
The language of lifestyle is the second point of importance.
“The Apostle Paul recognized and spoke this language when he went from city to city and from one group of people to another,” McCune explained. “In one gathering he would speak the language of the synagogue, and in another the language of the marketplace. With one group he would speak the language of the river and in another the language of Mars Hill. The groups today may be different, but the concept is the same. It is important that we are not only fluent in a national language but also be able to speak a little trucker, cowboy, student and multi-housing, just to name a few.”
Thirdly, the language of love must always be given preeminence. Jesus had the ability to communicate with Jews, Greeks and Samaritans.
“There were people who were very strict in their religious lives and then there were those who were criminals,” McCune said. “They were doing things outside the law and outside of the moral code of God. Jesus was able to cross all of those barriers that either people themselves had put up or society had put up.”
The world through the various tribes, tongues, people groups and nations is coming to Missouri, McCune said. The key is to communicate well with these people.
“We need to be able to communicate in such a way that people can understand,” McCune said. “We’ve got a tremendous message in Christ. There’s no doubt about that. But we need to connect in such a way that people can understand it and respond to it, and sometimes that means learning another language or connecting with someone who speaks that language.”
McCune has had to think through some of these issues this year concerning the planting of a new Missouri Baptist church for the Hmong people group. The Hmong, Asians who originated along the Yellow River in China, have purchased some turkey farms and are settling in southwest Missouri. A new Hmong church began on June 4.
“There’s really quite a bit of diversity here,” McCune said. “A lot of people tend to think of it just being Anglo, but it’s a fairly large part of our population now. It’s not like it was say even a decade ago.”
Filipino, Korean and Hispanic people groups are now growing in Springfield, which means that the three elements of language that McCune took note of in the NAMB meeting must be integrated into his approach.
“Everyone who is a Christian needs to have this, not just specialists in church planting,” he said. “If the work of sharing the Gospel in our state is going to happen, we’ve got to have the language of the nations, the language of lifestyle and the language of love. If not mastered, at least (we need to be) working on those three.”