There’s a school of thought that says those born into families who follow other religions won’t be interested in church because they follow their own gods, their own traditions, their own beliefs. It’s a way of thinking that seems to be gaining popularity in our pluralistic society. But the Bible has a rather more global view.
Far from being a Western phenomenon, Scripture speaks clearly of a God who lovingly and wisely rules the whole world (Psalm 24:1). Far from being a niche teaching, it portrays the Good News of Christ as a message to be shared “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). And rather than seeing the followers of Jesus as a homogenous group, it paints a picture of a church that encompasses people from every nation, speaking every tongue (Revelation 7:9). Christianity is a place of glorious diversity when it comes to ethnicity, culture and language.
No surprise then that local churches are designed to be places where people from all over the globe are welcome – places where you’ll find specific initiatives to enable people from other countries to hear more about the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus.
One such initiative at Dundonald is the weekly Bible study for women who have English as a second language. Meeting in the church building on Thursday evenings, it’s an opportunity for those with a limited vocabulary to investigate the claims of Christ.
Group members stem from Bulgaria, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Mexico and beyond. That means questions abound on topics that may not get discussed quite so much in the wider church: What does Christianity have to say about Communism? What are the differences between the Roman Catholic, the Orthodox and the Protestant Churches? If I become a Christian will I need to stop taking part in family festivals that honour my ancestors? How can I share the gospel with my family and friends back home when so few resources exist in my language? How can I love and honour my family well when we live so far apart? The questions are welcomed and are a delight to discuss but, at its core, the group exists not just to answer questions but to enable people who aren’t yet fluent in English to get stuck in to the wonders of God’s Word.
The group believes that the pages of Scripture are where we find what we need to start following Jesus, become more like Jesus and be equipped to serve Jesus (2 Timothy 3:14-17). That’s why in 2017, we’re going through the Gospel of John. We take it verse by verse, making sure we understand the meaning of each word as we go. We ask questions of the text so we get a clearer view of who Jesus is and what he came to do. And we apply the text to our own hearts and contexts. A particular highlight has been looking at Jesus’ “I am” sayings – the word pictures they paint of Jesus’ divine mission translate well into any language!
The group members are also passionate about putting into action the call to true, loving, Christ-centred community that we find in the pages of the Bible. That means practising our English together (even when the vocab is hard), eating together (noodles are a firm favourite), celebrating together (with dumpling-making and games on Chinese New Year) and helping each other in practical ways.
It means praying for each other too – in the physical and spiritual struggles we face each week and that friends face back home. We find ourselves praying for elections around the globe, persecution and injustice of many forms, as well as the feared implications of recent events in British politics (Brexit looms large in many a conversation). That means not every prayer time is easy but it’s a privilege to bring all those hopes and fears to the Lord who loves to act so generously.
It’s an open group welcoming all women who have English as a second language regardless of whether they are following Jesus or not. All we ask is that members have a genuine desire to find out more about Christ in the pages of Scripture. So, if you – or a friend – are interested in coming along, why not get more details from the church office: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or, if this group isn’t for you, maybe you could pray for us instead? Ephesians 3:14-19 would be a great place to start. As the Apostle Paul says there:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.