The story of the birth of the Christian church in Acts 2 is so dramatic and exciting that it lends itself to creative ideas. One thing that struck me recently when reading through the passage again is the language theme.
As the 1st generation Christians are filled with the Holy Spirit and begin to speak in tongues, there’s this amazing mash-up of worship and evangelism taking place. It says in Acts 2:11 that all these visitors to Jerusalem (15 nationalities are listed!), not only hear their languages spoken, but hear God’s wonders being declared! So as the early church praises God, crowds of foreigners hear about what God has done and they come to faith.
Of course, since that first Pentecost, the gospel has spread to many other nations and people of different languages. We also have the hope stated in Philippians 2 to that every tongue will declare that Jesus is Lord. Using different languages in worship is therefore an expression of our unity in the Church as well as an affirmation of our future hope.
Now for some ways you could use different languages this Pentecost:
The best option
Find out who is in your church! Even in the most homogenous church there will be people who are from other countries or are fluent in a foreign language, and many churches are blessed with a multi-cultural make-up without ever celebrating it. If you have people of other tongues in your congregation, you could:
- - Ask a few different people read Acts 2 in their language, or…
- - If you have a reading of Acts 2, when you get to verse 11, ask as many people you can to stand up where they are in the congregation and declare God’s wonders in their own language.
- - Ask people from different cultural backgrounds to teach some of their heart-songs to the musicians in your church; perhaps you could plan a whole service without any music originating in the UK or US?
The second-best option
If you don’t think you have many other tongues represented in your church, you can do your own research about languages. Here are some further ideas:
- - If you use a screen during a reading of Acts 2, you could find the text in other languages and put it up next to the English versions.
- - Ask a few readers to practise the pronunciations of other languages as ask them to shout out ‘Jesus is Lord’ in many different languages, either in a pause during the reading or during some other point of the worship (see below for my own list collected from all my exotic facebook friends!)
- - Find audio clips of other languages and ask a techie to mix them all together to give you an idea of what the 1st Pentecost must have sounded like.
You’ve probably used languages in worship in many creative ways – why not add your idea in the comments below.
My list of ‘Jesus is Lord’ in many languages (the pronunciation are in brackets if I have been given it - apologies for any errors):
Jezusi është Zot Albanian
Jesús es el Señor Spanish (hezOOs es el senyOR)
Jésus est le Seigneur French
sa Mesih Rab'dir Turkish (ee-saa messy raab dear)
Jesus ist der Herr German (yeazus-ist-der-hair)
Jesus is die Here Afrikaans (yesus-us -dee-heera)
Yesus adalah Tuhan Indonesian (Yay-zuz ah-da-lah Too-hun)
Jesus do Tuhan Batak Toba (Jay-zuz doh Too-hun)
Jesus é o Senhor Portuguese (Yesus e o Senyor)
Yeshua huh ha Mashiach Hebrew
Gesú é il Signore Italian
Yesu karthavannuh Malayalam
??????? ???????? Tamil (Yesuve karththar)
???? ?? ????. Arabic (yessua howa el rab)
Panginoon si Jesus Tagalog (Pang-e-no-on si he-sus)
Isus este Domn Romanian (I guess phonetically it would be: Isus yeste Dom)
Isus je nas Gospod Bosnian (isos ye nash gospod)
???? ? ?????? Bulgarian / Russian (Isus ye Gospod)
Jesus är Herre Swedish (Yesus er herre)