28th March 2024

Three-Language Collaboration a Moving Experience

A desire to bring different languages and cultures together in Christ has prompted Mill Park Baptist Church (MPBC) to host services, with different aspects spoken in English, Arabic and Korean.

Senior Pastor Rev Geoff Shepherd said the church had really appreciated a stronger sense of community as they introduced an English and Arabic quarterly service, and then introduced the quarterly trilingual service once the Korean group began at the church.

Song words are displayed in all three languages, while different singers take the lead for each verse to give all three dialects a turn. When preaching, the three pastors speak for around 10 minutes each on the same Bible passage.

“It’s great fun, and it’s very moving,” Geoff said. “We did this two weeks ago and I had several people come to me in tears afterwards because they found it so moving. There’s something incredibly special about it. Even when language changes occur, throughout the music for example, it still sounds good and it doesn’t matter. The experience of hearing the different languages and praising God together more than makes up for that.

“We all know the kingdom of God is people of every nation, tribe and tongue, and when we’re singing together and celebrating those parts of our service together it’s a really stark reminder of our unity as the people of God. It makes you feel really proud that we’re praising God together, and one is not more important than the others. I wish we could do it in more languages again! We have a lot of Persian and African people in our church and I wish we could accommodate those languages as well.”

He has found that plenty of explanations throughout the service are crucial in bringing everyone together. “We have had to learn and tweak things as we go in response to people’s feedback. We try to explain to people that there will be some things happening that you don’t understand, but that’s what we want to do. Our friends who have come from overseas experience this every day as they seek to live in our culture, so while it might be a little bit different it’s definitely worth doing.”

Geoff said MPBC had “tried as much as possible to accommodate rather than assimilate” different cultures into the church. “There are things we can change as Anglo-speaking Aussies, and there are things other cultures can change as well, so that we can come to a point of interacting and living together. Don’t be afraid of different cultures, they’re as rich as can be. These people try to live in our culture every day and they’re amazing.”

He said working as a multi-ethnic church was not necessarily straightforward, with implications on many aspects such as the way church runs, leadership and training. “We love those implications here – we embrace those challenges and we want ethnicities well represented in our leadership – we can’t cover everyone’s needs otherwise. I reckon it’s really exciting being able to learn about the other cultures – let alone their food, it’s awesome!”

Doveton Baptist Church is also fostering meaningful partnerships with congregations of multiple cultures. The church hosts English, South Sudanese, Filipino, Samoan and Tamil speaking services throughout the week. How wonderful that people from many places around the world who now call Doveton home can worship and celebrate Jesus in different languages in one church!



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