Picture of woman sitting on outdoor church pew

To Translate or Not to Translate…

Nov 17, 2016 | Blog, Churches

Interacting with many churches, I’ve learned that many leaders wonder about whether or not they should invest in translation. It can seem like an overwhelming complication with unclear benefits. I want to suggest an exercise that might help you think about this question for your context.


Imagine one day a foreigner showed up at your church. He can’t speak a word of English and stumbled through the door puzzled. He’s wearing a rough shawl and plain clothes and motions with hands that he needs some sort of help. You wish you could talk with him, but after a few moments of awkward attempts, he turns around and leaves. Your service goes on, but your heart is unsettled. It shouldn’t be this way.

Now imagine that the person who came to your door was Jesus.

What kind of experience do you wish you could have given him? How would you want to welcome him? What would you say or do? How would he feel? What would he think?

Take a moment to imagine.

What if the moment Jesus showed up speaking Aramaic, a computer recognized what he said and showed you a translation in English. What if you could hand him a tablet and he could be ushered to a place where he would get translations of everything being said from the stage in his language? And what if he could sing along in his language? Imagine if he could be invited to come forward and speak to the entire congregation in Aramaic as English subtitles appeared up on the big screen for everyone to follow along? What if your church created this foretaste of God’s Kingdom every gathering?

As you can tell, I believe translation isn’t optional, it’s essential. The only reason why most people and organizations don’t do it is because it feels overwhelmingly complicated. But what if in our pursuit of loving and welcoming the stranger, we created a solution that made it so simple this barrier was no longer an issue? Would that change your mind on whether or not to translate?

We think we’ve built such a solution in spf.io. And we’d like to invite you to try it out and see how fantastic it would be to welcome someone like Jesus, a foreigner, a stranger, showing up at your door next Sunday.

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