Three Services, Two Languages, One Church
“Bienvenidos!” That was the first word spoken from the front in our weekend worship services last weekend. That was because instead of our usual three English services and one Spanish, we had three services in both languages. It was quite a phenomenon, and I expect that even a nonreligious person would have found it interesting.
We distributed bulletins with Spanish on one side and English on the other. The worship team was a mix of our English and Spanish worship ministries, and with every song we alternated between the two languages. Pastor Joe preached God’s Word in both Spanish and English, essentially translating for himself, which clearly was not easy! We spent time in prayer led first in English and then also in Spanish. And after the last service, we enjoyed a shared meal in both languages.
This was our first bilingual service in a long time. And while it certainly makes for an interesting spectacle, the reason we do it is because we are a bilingual church. Since 2008, we are One Church with Two Languages. This is a fairly unique approach, and so far as I know, there is only one other church in our area using the same model. There are a good number of churches that allow an ethnic church to use their facility, but bot many seek to operate as one church.
Bilingual ministry obviously presents some significant challenges. So why do we do it? I shared the two biggest with those who gathered last weekend.
- It helps us make more disciples of Jesus. We thank God for the English ministry God has been doing at Evergreen for the last 75 years. But with the rapid increase of the Hispanic population in our area, there is a great need for effective Spanish ministries. We believe we can reach people in both languages better when we work together rather than just forming separate churches.
- It drives us to be more like Jesus. We all tend to gravitate toward and hang out with people like ourselves. It’s just natural. Thank God Jesus didn’t do that! If he had, we would all be lost, because none of us are like him. But as his disciples, we are learning to be more like him as we push past natural obstacles (like language and culture) and form relationships with those different from us. Last weekend was a great opportunity to follow in the footsteps of our Savior.
Here’s the beautiful thing: It was fun! Over the course of the weekend, I had countless people tell me how much they loved this combined service. The most common question I heard was, “When are we going to do this again?!” We have just formed a plan to do bilingual services three times a year, with the next one slated for late February. But God’s grace, we get to be part of God rescuing people from every tongue, tribe and nation in the world!