As we continue to highlight a different Christianity Explored resource each month, our September focus is the Christianity Explored Universal (ESL) Edition, an 8-session, English made easy journey through the Gospel of Mark.
Easy to read and understand, the Universal Edition is a great way for people to explore the best news God has given us in Jesus Christ. The Universal editions of Christianity Explored and Discipleship Explored follow the same basic structure as the main courses, but are Bible-study based more than DVD-based, although the DVDs can be used alongside the studies as a summary. The Universal Edition features straightforward, accessible language, making it adaptable to an even wider range of people.
The questions and explanations are designed to be simple but not shallow. We have not “dumbed down” the content, even if we have tried to express it in clear language. The Universal Edition is perfect for use with international students, ESL ministries, and people with limited education or limited literacy skills.
Paul and Judy Chelson regularly run the Christianity Explored course at their church in McLean, VA. But when they had the opportunity to offer Christianity Explored to a group of men and women studying English through ESL classes, they realized they needed to use the Universal Edition. Here they describe their experience.
When we decided to offer Christianity Explored to our English as a Second Language classes after their morning ESL sessions, we knew we would have to adapt the usual interactive discussion. We kept the format of gathering around a table for a light meal and we gave each of the people a copy of Mark. But, our people needed the CE universal edition to help their understanding. This edition has many more vocabulary explanations and—what we found really helpful—was the cumulative list of key points of the story so far before introducing each new topic.
Each week, we read that session’s portion of Mark and the handbook at least twice: once slowly by one of us and then again together with the participants. We helped define words and they often used their phone translators (see note below). Paul made a lot of diagrams on a whiteboard to clarify the point of each session—when we work with non-native English speakers, pictures are the way to go. We showed Rico’s video version with subtitles in the native language of the largest group—sometimes twice so they could process the English. One of the advantages of the universal edition is that it doesn’t use Christianese phrases and neither does Rico on the DVD. Plain English is best for understanding.
It really helped that we had done some research into the religion, literature, and culture they came from—showing love and respect for each person there. This was not so we could contradict or debate, but so we could show them we appreciated their background before introducing them to the God who calls people out of every race and nation.
At the end of the course, we saw different reactions. One woman, a singer on the edge of believing, was convinced to follow Jesus and requested to sing in the church choir. One man, a former college professor, didn’t talk much. What little he did say indicated that he appreciated the knowledge of what Christians believed but was not open to changing to a personal faith. While many in the group had much the same response, another woman pulled Judy aside and said, “I like your Jesus, but I just can’t do this because of my family when I go back.” She has heard and responded to the Gospel, but she also understands the cost of the call to follow Jesus in her culture and family. We pray the Hound of Heaven will continue to pursue her.
(Note: It’s very easy for things to get lost in translation. For example, we read how Jesus rose from the dead. After clicking on her translator, one woman looked up with a puzzled face and asked, “Jesus is a flower?” We had to be very careful to make sure each person understood each word we used.)
—Paul and Judy Chelson