Biblical Basis for Heart Language Missions
Attempting to reach people for Christ through their heart languages, even when the targeted people speak another language, is more than a gimmick to win their trust or the latest in missiological techniques, fads, or trends. Doing missions and evangelism through the medium of people’s heart languages, regardless of how obscure, has a definite basis in scripture.
We are admonished by the Lord Jesus to make disciples as we go into all the world, or as the Greek puts it, πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, all the “peoples”, or “ethno-linguistic groups.” This phrase πάντα τὰ ἔθνη is used in the Great Commission both in Matthew (28:19) and Luke (24:47).
In Acts 2:4-12, because of the preoccupation with the discussion of glossolalia, an emphasis, no less important, is often overlooked. An all-important aspect of this miracle, regardless of other discussions on the matter, is that all these people heard and understood the Gospel in their own διαλέκτος, the Greek word from which we gain the word “dialect” in fact, this term διαλέκτος is only found in the Book of Acts in the New Testament. This event taking place at the very birth of the Church is even more astounding given the fact that most if not all of those present would surely have spoken a common, trade language, like Koine Greek or Aramaic, as they were Jews and God-fearers from foreign parts then living in Palestine. However, it was important to God in this miracle to communicate his Gospel in a way that penetrates the heart, i.e. in the heart language. In this miracle, we are given a glimpse into the God-ordained methodology for carrying out the Great Commission.
In the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John, we see an eschatological truth that every people, tribe, language, and nation is represented in heaven (cf. Revelation 5:9 and 14:6). We accept by faith that only those who have accepted Christ are among that number, and if every language is represented (including Celtic language speakers), then it follows that the Gospel was communicated to them in their language, or, as Paul put it in Romans 10:14-15, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?”
Given the relatively small number of speakers of the Celtic languages, many might ask, “Why go to all that trouble to learn these languages and try to reach these people through those languages, especially when the vast majority of them have some competence in English or French? There are not enough of them to justify the effort!” The Bible speaks to this issue as well and reminds us that God often looks at our situations in a very different way from our human, logical way of looking at them.
In the parable of the Shepherd and the lost sheep, we see the Shepherd willing to leave the ninety-nine in the flock to go search for the one that is lost. He goes to extraordinary lengths and at great effort finds the lost sheep, which is followed by extreme joy. One lesson of many from that parable is that every soul is important to God and should be important enough to us to go “the extra mile” to try to win “lost sheep.” Therefore, if learning and using one of the Celtic languages is the way to win speakers of those languages, then we should be willing to do whatever it takes to reach these people groups.
Consistently throughout Scripture and indeed throughout Christian history, God has used the small, weak, unlikely people and peoples to accomplish His purposes in the world. Consider the fact that Jesus and his disciples were born into a minority religious sect, an obscure ethno-linguistic group, in a desert nation at the edge of the Empire (known world). Yet, God used this unlikely group from this unlikely setting to set His world on fire with the Gospel of reconciliation. Consequently, by winning these speakers of obscure languages who are small and marginalized peoples (like speakers of the Celtic languages), we have no way of knowing how God will use these people in the fulfillment of his purposes in the years to come.
God has already used Celts throughout history in His plans and purposes, from the Galatians (who were a Celtic people) to the early Irish, British, and Gaulish missionaries to the great Revivals of Wales and Scotland. The CeLT waits with excitement for what God is wanting to do among and through the Celts.