The other day I was driving to German class when traffic caused me to stop. I was stopped a little bit longer than I had expected when all of the sudden I realized that there was a man at my window speaking rather loudly at me. I quickly determined that he was upset because I had stopped covering the crosswalk. He was speaking in German but I could tell he was telling me that I should have thought about where I stopped (I got this mainly because he was pointing to his head and had a face full of disgust.) I had flashbacks to my childhood where my dad would lecture me about how this was a world of thinkers and I must always be thinking. I got over that flashback though. Then I rolled down my window and purposely used the wrong words for “Excuse me” hoping that he would realize that I am a foreigner and that that might be some kind of excuse. It didn’t work. He ranted on even more. When I realized that in his vocalizing his concern about my driving, he was spitting on me. I decided to then roll up my window. Luckily, the traffic had moved on and so I decided it was time for us to do likewise. I looked in the rearview mirror to see him still standing there in the middle of the road mouthing words and making hand gestures (I don’t think they were vulgar gestures though, just more of a “I can’t believe he didn’t stay here to hear more of what I was saying” gestures).
This was not a time for me to practice my German. As the man clearly did not like the way I drove in his country, I do not believe he would have taken kindly to me butchering his language. Its hard to find the right places where its safe to practice German. You are looking to converse with someone who is understanding and forgiving. Who will gently correct you when you say something wrong. Who will help fill in the word gaps that you have when you are trying to say something. And above all they have to be patient and willing to take the time to have a conversation when speaking takes three or more times as long.
Then it dawned on me. We need a safe environment in which to learn German just as a new Christian needs a safe environment to learn what it means to be a follower of Christ. And the environments are the similar in nature. Just as we need to be able to speak with people who are willing to answer our questions (no matter how simple they may be) and with people that set a tone that any question can be asked. And the same thing holds true for a new Christian. We need people who have the patience to listen to us and help us fill the word gaps in our speech just as a new Christian does. We need someone who is going to show us grace when we mess up and in a nurturing way show us where in our text book (or other reliable literature) we have gone astray just as a new Christian, who is pursuing living a life as a Christ follower, needs people to surround them, encouraging them, and showing them grace when they mess up and in a loving way, show them where in our life’s manual (i.e. the Bible) they have gone astray.
Is your community of Christ followers a safe environment for a new Christian?