Dec 30, 2008

Teaching English and Evangelism

Our main day-to-day work at Bethel House will be teaching English through four courses, beginner to advanced. In addition we will have the opportunity to visit local high schools weekly to be part of English classes and do short talks on topics like Canada, multiculturalism, the native issue, life in Edmonton, personal interests, etc.

So we're going to teach English in Litomerice. And yet our overriding purpose is to engage with people around worldviews, and as Christians to be torchbearers or ambassadors for the Jesus-story. Huh? How do these work together? What connection does learning English have to do with spirituality, worldviews, religion, faith?

Learning a language is more than just grammar tables, vocabulary and idioms. Its about learning a way of thinking and organizing that is particular to that language and ultimately a specific culture. More importantly, learning English gives people access to worlds where English is powerful, such as the world of economics (ie. I can get a better paying job), geographies (ie. I want to travel abroad) or relationships (ie. now I can connect with more than just the 10 million Czechs who share my language). In other words, we're helping to give people more power to engage with the larger world. To that end we hope to teach English well.

Worldviews are not too different from languages, they are all about a type of grammar, vocabulary, ways of thinking and culture. For example capitalism's vocabulary and grammar include freedom, individual rights, private property, free markets and a class-society. All the other "ism's" like democracy (okay, that's not an ism!), communism, individualism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. have their own vocabulary and grammar.

Our desire to engage with people around their worldviews and to share the Jesus story (with the attending worldview of Christian faith) is because we believe that the Jesus story will always enlarge and empower a person's ability to live in the world that surrounds us. Again that doesn't mean that other worldviews have nothing valuable to share, only that the Jesus story will contribute something that none of the other worldviews will ultimately point to: a relational God who challenges individuals and communities alike to draw near to him through, not more hard work, but the gift of forgiveness and healing.

One last comment. The Czech people are just over 10 million strong, which means that if you are a Czech person, there are only 10 million other people who know your language. Now if you as a Czech person were told, sorry, you won't be allowed to learn English, you'd be pretty upset, being so limited. In the same way, to not share the spiritual content of Jesus and the Christian faith would be to prevent the Czech people from accessing a resource that, in terms of spiritual power and vitality, has a similar currency and influence as English presently enjoys.

Any thoughts?

(Obviously the parallel between English as a language opening doors for Czech people and the Jesus-story providing Czech people with a new centre only goes so far.)

1 comment:

  1. I became a Christian during an English camp taught at Litomerice by a group of Americans. I think the biggest thing for me was that in them I saw a different kind of Christianity than what was normally presented to me in my (Czech) culture. Also, I found (and still find) that Christianity and its doctrines are different in English - not the content but the way they are expressed. I find it easier to talk about spiritual and theological things (e.g. the doctrine of justification) in English rather than my mother tongue. I'm certain that you will find people with the same condition - the foreign language will provide a sort of shield for them and the otherwise embarrassing reality of their asking about the matters of faith will be, to them, concealed.

    I will be in prayer for you guys that you may bring joy to God and be filled with joy yourselves.