Preaching as an Act of Translation

I missed my usual Monday or Tuesday post due to traveling to El Salvador with two colleagues. On Sunday afternoon I had the burdensome joy of preaching in Eglesia Bautista Nejapa. Through a translator.

That changes everything.

If you’ve preached through a translator, you know you have to think about the translation process before the sermon begins. It reminded me that preaching is a form of translation even when we’re preaching in our own language.

So, before I preached last Sunday in El Salvador I had to think about:

  • What is the dominant response this Text demands of Christians? (I often ask, “What does God intend this Word to do to Christians?”)
  • What is the big idea (in proverbial or abbreviated form)?
  • What two or three key words are going to be repeated throughout the sermon?

Pretty important questions. I’m asking them before preaching in El Salvador because I’ve got to find the right words. Words that will translate well. Words that the listeners will resonate with. I know what I want to say, but it’s sometimes clearer in my mind than out of my mouth.

The little exercise made me clearer than normal. My listeners at Calvary Bible Church would appreciate that.

Before next Sunday, ask yourself those three questions. Work for even clarity on all three for God’s glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Your thoughts?

2 thoughts on “Preaching as an Act of Translation

  1. I have lived overseas for 12 years; 4 in Japan and 8 in Thailand. Most of the churches I preach at are Thai churches and I am not fluent in the language. Preaching with a translator requires me to be simple and concise. But I love preaching here. Thank you for sharing this

    • You’re welcome. Thank you for reading some of this material. It sounds like you’ve got a great venue in which to preach. You certainly are experiencing regularly what I experience a couple of times a year. Keep up the good work of translating the Word so the ultimate Translator can do His work through your translator (*smile*).