Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Why - and how - I am "Ecclesiastically Multilingual"

Quite often when I'm invited to travel somewhere to speak or teach, it's with churches and denominations representing varying Christian traditions. In fact it's the rule rather than the exception. I may have been a Presbyterian for thirty years, but that doesn't appear to carry much weight in a denomination that has fluctuated between slow to non-existent when it comes to embracing my work and ideas!

So far as I can recall, since GET REAL was published in 2007, I've worked with the following church denominations: Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Assemblies of God, and the Church of Christ. I've been invited to Florida, Georgia, Texas, Colorado, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Indiana.

On-line teaching has added at least a dozen more states, several more denominations, and people from three continents.

"So What?" you may ask. Well, the so-what of all of this is JESUS - the redemptive truth we all hold in common. That fact is a blessing that resonates even more so when I fold in what I like to call my "faith heritage."
  • I was raised Baptist in the south of England. 
  • One uncle was a Baptist preacher; one uncle was a Methodist preacher; one uncle served a Congregational church that later became United Reformed. 
  • A cousin worked as a Church of England clergyman; another cousin became a Baptist preacher. Still another cousin is a United Reformed minister. One cousin runs a denominationally nonspecific house-church in France. Two other cousins married preachers.
  • My mother was raised in an esoteric Brethren group known as The Peculiar People.
  • I made my public profession of faith at a Billy Graham Crusade.
  • When I left home I spent a couple of years hanging out with fundamentalist charismatics.
  • Later I did mission work with the Assemblies of God.
  • I attended a Southern Baptist Church during college.
  • Finally, I married a Presbyterian preacher. 
And so, I often declare when I'm standing in front of a group I have never met before, this is why I like to say that I am "Ecclesiastically Multilingual." (I don't often rush to stamp "mine" on an idea, but I'm claiming the "ecclesiastically multilingual" phrase as 100% original!)

Or, as I said to my new friends at First Baptist of Decatur, Georgia, last fall. "Hi, my name is Derek Maul. I may be Presbyterian but I'm also fluent in Baptist."

I've also been known to say, "I may be Presbyterian, but I also speak Jesus."

Which is funny, when I remember a story Rebekah ("The Preacher") told me one day when she returned from a preaching trip to up-state New York.

"I was cautioned after the first service," she said incredulously, "by a woman who told me, 'I don't know if maybe it's a Southern thing; but you need to know we're not that comfortable with so much Jesus talk around here.'"

I have only one thing to say to that, and it's not even a complete sentence: "OMG!"

Always learning, nearly always laughing out loud - DEREK


  1. Love that story. You know, I must confess that when I am with other people who use Christ language, I'm quite comfortable. But when I listen carefully to what Jesus Christ talks about, that's when he makes me quite uncomfortable. It's a blessed discomfort.

  2. Too true, Jesse!
    Jesus is anything but comfortable making when we listen closely...

  3. Interestingly, as I am in full harvest at the farm right now, I mentioned to our office manager this week that one of the migrant workers was such a nice man. He is always cheerful and greets me with a smile and a comment (in Spanish) in the field. I didn't catch the translation, but he always puts me at ease immediately. She then told me that he never fails to finish an encounter with one phrase. The phrase translates to "God Bless You!"