When I travel to Scandinavia on business I know exactly what to expect for lunch. The Danes always order in a platter of Danish open sandwiches for a working lunch. Unfortunately, in a country that is surrounded by sea only one open sandwich will have shrimps. Incredibly everyone in the room will want the sandwich with the shrimps.
The Swedes have issues with hunger and an open sandwich doesn’t cut the mustard. This may explain their feelings about their Danish cousins, including the Swedish saying: “The Danes have good neighbours” (inferring that the Swedes do not). By 11:30 the Swedes are beginning to look around desperately. If they don’t get to eat a large hot lunch by 12:00 they will die of hunger, apparently. This may explain why a global Swedish furniture chain also sells meatballs.
The Finns also like hot food at lunchtime. To meet their needs Finnish workplaces have canteens. The difference between the Finns and the Swedes is that the Finns do not die if they do not get to eat a hot lunch. A sandwich at a motorway service station may suffice if necessary.
The Norwegians do not seem so bothered about lunch, but might make their own sandwiches if bread, butter and other ingredients are available. Which is how I have found myself knocking up a sarnie in a Norwegian client’s workplace kitchen.
It would be easy to expect all Scandinavians to have similar tastes, but the fact is that each of these countries is very different in what they eat and how they speak. For instance, the Swedes and the Norwegians seem to be able to understand each other, but Danish is a very difficult language, and Finnish is virtually incomprehensible. Fortunately English is very widely spoken.
It concerns me that the language we speak in church is often as incomprehensible as Finnish. We know how to feed people but we don’t know how to meet their spiritual hunger. We can throw open our doors with breakfasts for the homeless, lunches for the elderly, and enjoy as many fellowship lunches as the catering deacons can schedule, but if the words we speak sound like a Dane trying to speak Finnish then we don’t have a chance of reaching the lost.
So how can we best share the good news that is stunningly obvious to us but doesn’t seem to mean anything to anyone else? Can Jesus teach us anything? How was it that He managed to strike up such a rapport with ordinary folk? I understand rapport. One of the key skills I need to have in my consultancy work is rapport with the people I work with, regardless of nationality, background, education, taste in food, etc. Now I realise it isn’t just about words, but words are important. While Jesus lived a pure and perfect life, it was the things He said and the example He set that made a difference. And if your church and my church is not seeing the lost come to Jesus, then perhaps we need to invest less in things that distract and more in learning from the Master, and becoming more like Him through time spent in His presence. Isn’t that what the disciples did?
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69 NIV)