“They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, ‘Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language?’” 

– Acts 2:7-8


We find ourselves in a new apostolic age. A new era in which the dominant culture no longer speaks the language of Christianity. Our Church now stands alone amid the many nations who don’t share our worldview. 


But it’s not like we haven’t been here before. Or that it has stopped us. The Pentecost event shows God’s definitive power to cross through barriers of difference and culture to make the proclamation of the gospel known.


Read EC President Jason Simon’s article about Pentecost here.


Jesuit missionaries traveled across the world to foreign lands and to peoples with completely different languages from their own. With no help from Google Translate, they learned to understand one another. They learned the language of the people they hoped to share Jesus with. Not only the words but the culture, the music, the customs, the assumptions, and the hopes of the peoples. They lived in their midst and got to know them. 


Are modern everyday missionaries any different? We certainly have a head start! Everyone in my circle who I hope would come to know Jesus already understands the words that come out of my mouth. In that way, we speak the same language.


And yet, it seems we still need a work of the Holy Spirit. How did each person who heard the disciples proclaim the power of God hear them in his own language? The Holy Spirit prepared their ears, minds, and hearts to receive what was foreign as something familiar. The Holy Spirit created communication, connection, communion. God forged a path where there was no path. 


women meeting

I remember the first time I asked the Holy Spirit what I should say in a conversation. I was meeting with Casey—a young woman exploring Christianity who could as easily have dropped it in favor of New Age ideas or no belief in the supernatural at all. She was sharing about the stress she was under as she juggled a difficult class load and friction among her roommates.


Silently, I asked the Holy Spirit for the right words to say. I remember how it felt when the Holy Spirit answered my prayer: Time seemed to slow. God drew my attention to how much love he had for Casey. My compassion for the burdens she was carrying deepened. 


Almost aware of my prayer herself, she paused what she was saying and left a window for me to speak. God had forged the path. 


I didn’t say anything particularly profound. I merely asked how God was with her in her struggles. Yet, her response told the story. Her eyes held a flash of recognition. Her shoulders relaxed. She let out a deep sigh like she had been holding her breath without realizing it. 


My words had landed. I had spoken to her in her own native language. The Holy Spirit had cut a path to her heart and given me the words that would speak to her. 


Do we need techniques, good questions, and conversation strategies to bridge the cultural gap between us and those we want to reach? Yes, truly we do. But techniques and strategies are never enough. If we really want to speak a language that will resonate and be heard, let’s become experts at calling on the Holy Spirit. It’s how Jesus told us to witness: “Do not worry beforehand about what you are to say. But say whatever will be given to you at that hour. For it will not be you who are speaking but the holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11).


Andrea Jackson is a Content Creator and Ministry Consultant at the Evangelical Catholic. The Evangelical Catholic’s mission is to equip Catholics to live out the Great Commission. Learn more.


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