Intentional communication

Published December 5, 2013

(This article was first published in the December 2013 issue of the Anglican Journal.)

We spent the whole month of October in Valencia, birthplace of paella, on the southern coast of Spain. Half the day I’d usually go exploring with my family. We’d jump on buses or take long walks through the ancient walled city, investigating its history, architecture, food and culture. The other half of the day I’d work on Trailblazing, a youth ministry leaders’ resource that we launched in November.

Early in our stay, we met an Australian couple, Michael and Tania, who had arrived in Spain last May. Working in partnership with a local congregation, they are heavily involved in campus ministry on several university campuses in town. They spend their mornings in language classes and their afternoons on campus, connecting with students, participating in Bible studies and enjoying long conversations in local cafés during the afternoon siesta.

Several days after speaking with Michael about the realities of their cross-cultural experience, I stumbled upon these words in the recently released Hemorrhaging Faith report: “The task of communicating the gospel across generations is similar to the task faced by cross-cultural missionaries.”

The report-a groundbreaking Canadian study of 2,049 young people between the ages of 18 and 34, commissioned by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) Youth and Young Adult Ministry Roundtable-focuses on why young people are leaving, staying or returning to the church. It explores the implications of a declining church and points to opportunities to engage in renewed mission to young people.

The report’s authors go on to say: “Cross-cultural missionaries invest time researching cultural anthropology before they communicate their message. They want to be sure that what they say is what is actually heard.”

For Tania and Michael, the cross-cultural element is obvious. They’re English-speaking Australians in Spain, and they must become familiar with the local culture and language.

For us, that element may be less evident. And yet, we must be just as intentional in our ministries with young people.

We have this story, this incredible, awe-inspiring, life-changing story of a man who did such amazing things, and said such wonderful things that people just had to follow him to find out who he was. It’s a story we’ll be telling a lot this month as we remind ourselves of the story of Jesus, the one whose advent we now await.

But this story is not just for us. It’s a story of the light of the world, for the life of the world. And we, like John the Baptist, are called to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.



  • Andrew Stephens-Rennie

    Andrew Stephens-Rennie is a member of the national youth initiatives team of the Anglican Church of Canada.

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