What is Communication

I had an interesting day at church today.
One of the things that I don’t like as much about being in church ministry is that I go to the same church every single Sunday. Not that I want to be one of those people who church-hop, in any way. But I would occasionally like the freedom to go elsewhere when I have a friend invite me, when I know of a worship team that I am interested in listening to, or when there is a speaker that I want to hear. In reality, I have that freedom more than I think, but I don’t feel quite right leaving my church on a Sunday many times.

Today I got several calls asking if I “played hookey,” even from people I had previously told I was leaving. I have digressed.

We went today to Arlington Chinese Church. It was an interesting, and enjoyable experience. The people were nice, the sermon was good (they had a missionary leader speak in English and they translated to Chinese), and they invited us afterward for a free lunch. Many people seemed very interested in talking to me. Most of this was because I am a pastor, and they all wanted to share with me. Times like that always make you feel proud to be part of the Kingdom of God.

There were some very striking observations that I made as I sat surrounded by people in a worship service taking place primarily in a language not my own. This is definitely not the first time this has happened. Not by a long shot. But perhaps much of my observations were more fresh after being away from these experiences for a long time.

I only know a handful of Chinese characters. “Wo,” (I/me) is one of them. I also know the sounds for God (Shen-Di) and Jesus (Yesu), and a few other church-related words. I was amazed as we sang (OK, I mostly just said “watermellon” over and over again) that “Wo” (I/me) was used far more frequently than any of the other words. I know that this is not a Chinese thing.  It is just that I notice it more when that is only one of the few words I know.  I can do a much better word count, in a sense.

At lunch, we sat near the speaker and a man who attends the church (although not Chinese) who happens to be a university professor in the Communications Department.  I was quite interested in talking with him, although it seemed he was one of the few people not especially interested in communicating with me.  He made an interesting statement that I did overhear, and will think about for quite some time.  He said that “when people communicate, the primary preconception is not that they can understand each other, but that they fundamentally misunderstand each other.”  This would make communicating all about righting the wrong inherantly existing before (and sometimes during) the communication.

I’ll have to dwell on that a while.

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