Wednesday 13 November 2013
Greetings FCC Family,
Over the past several months in our Sunday gatherings, you’ve probably heard both Steve and me make references to the idea of starting some kind of ministry aimed at reaching the Spanish-speaking population in our surrounding community. And this past Sunday, you heard Ginny Priestman refer to this idea as being one of the ministry priorities that is reflected in the church budget for 2014. I thought it might be helpful to clarify exactly what it is that we’re talking about and to dispel some possible misconceptions about the intent of this ministry initiative.
First of all, notice that I used the term “Spanish-speaking” to refer to the population being targeted by the proposed initiative. This was a thoroughly intentional choice of terminology. The need for this ministry arises from the fact that there is a language barrier that currently hinders our church from connecting with roughly 50% of the residents in our local community. These are individuals whose language of origin is Spanish, who live in neighborhoods where Spanish is the primary language being spoken, and whose familiarity with the English language is almost nonexistent. These are people for whom there is no pressing need to learn the English language because they live and work alongside other Spanish-speakers. Among other things, this means that if we at FCC wish to connect with these members of our community and share the message of Christ with them, we will need to create an environment in which the language being spoken is one that they are already familiar with. It’s the same principle that applies whenever the church sends missionaries to places where other languages are spoken; the missionary must learn the language that is familiar to the inhabitants of those places. FCC is a mission to the Ashburn community, and we must be equipped to communicate with our neighbors in a language that is familiar to them.
The second point is an extension of the first: this is a ministry initiative based upon language, not ethnicity or race. We are not talking about a ministry to reach Latinos, or Hispanics, or Mexican-Americans; we’re talking about a ministry to reach the Spanish-speaking population. Our church family already has a diversity of ethnic groups represented among our membership, including people of Hispanic descent, as well as African-Americans, European Americans, and a variety of others. We do not need to target specific ethnic groups in our community because we’ve already created an environment in which people of different ethnicities are worshipping together and connecting with our ministry, as long as they know how to speak English. Again, the issue here is language, not ethnicity. There is no language barrier for most of us at FCC, because we all speak English, and every aspect of our present ministry is oriented toward English speakers; none of us had to learn another language to be involved in the ministry at FCC. Though some of us are from non-English speaking countries, we came to FCC with a working knowledge of the English language, which we had already attained out of necessity prior to joining the congregation. Yet there is a large population of Spanish-speaking people whom we are not currently reaching because they do not need to learn English to live and work in our community, and therefore they will only attend churches in which their language is being spoken. Our desire is for FCC to become a place where these individuals can feel welcome and connect in community with others without being required to learn a language that they otherwise have no need to learn.
Thirdly, we are not proposing a radical reorientation of the ministry that we are currently doing – for example, making sure that every worship service, Connection Group, and church activity is bilingual or has a Spanish-speaking component. In fact, what we envision is that our outreach would begin by means of a small group of some sort, perhaps a Connection Group or Bible study, which would be led by an individual who is fluent in Spanish, and that this group would be placed alongside our present ministry offerings at FCC. In other words, we will continue doing our present ministry that is oriented toward English-speaking people of all ethnic groups, but will also add some type of ministry function whose aim is to connect with the Spanish-speaking population.
Finally, I think we must all be aware of tensions that have long existed within our community between people of different ethnicities, and we must ask the Lord to search our hearts and remove all traces of prejudice and discrimination from within each of us. We must not allow the racial disharmony that we see in our surrounding culture to take root within our congregation as well. As we move forward with this ministry initiative and as it begins to bear fruit, we must remain committed to loving and welcoming all people regardless of their race or ethnic background, just as Jesus himself was committed to loving everyone whom he encountered in his earthly ministry. We ask that each of our members devote themselves to praying for this ministry initiative and for those in our neighboring community whom we are endeavoring to reach through this initiative.
As always, we greatly appreciate your support and prayers for the leadership at FCC. Feel free to contact either Steve or me if you need further clarification regarding the thoughts I’ve shared here.
Blessings to each of you. – G