The Language of Brunswick Stew

I love me some Brunswick Stew! Especially if it's made right, and yes, that means it has to be lacking certain things like lima beans.

Erin and I and the kids spent the weekend in Brunswick, Georgia - home of the world's greatest stew. I had the wonderful opportunity to baptize the five-month-old son of some of our friends on the beach at St. Simon's Island. It was a beautiful day and we had a good crowd of family and friends.

This weekend was a great field study for me in communication. I observed the way people communicate with each other on many different levels and want to share some insight with you.

First, to get to Brunswick, you have to drive for several hours through the land of pine trees, cotton fields, and rednecks. Having hailed from South Georgia, I am familiar with this territory and it's dialect. Passing through towns like Dublin, McRae, Lumber City, Surrency, and Jesup, you notice the plethora of small, country churches that have some sort of sign or marquee with information that indicates what kind of church it is. I'm looking forward to the day that I can take off and visit the Pinetucky Church of God of Prophecy (yes, it really exists).

I'm facinated about the wasted sign space that many churches take up. Signs that read "Is your name in the lamb's book of life?" and "Grace is free, but it came at a great price" and signs filled with unusual biblical texts in the language of King James. I found myself getting frustrated with what I was seeing. After all, how many non-churched, de-churched, or lost people will read these signs and actually understand this language, much less choose to come in and worship with the hopes of encountering Christ? I mean, come on! What goes through people's minds when they put up these words? I suspect in some cases they're well meaning, but in most, they want to give the appearance that they are warm and inviting without actually being warm and inviting.

Once in Brunswick, Ben got to hang out with Reilly Kate who is about five months older than he is and we all noticed how differently the two communicate. RK is a talker. You will get the long version of any sentence and you will get details that you may or may not be able to make out (she's two - how much to we really understand?). Ben, on the other hand, isn't a big talker. He's not even one to use too many sentences. Ben uses an "economy of words" and gets right to the point. If he wants his juice, he says "juice". He communicates well, just with brevity. I think that's the Barbarian coming out in him and it makes me excited. I can remember a time in college that my roommate and I would communicate each morning through grunts and groans and understood each other perfectly. Strangely, Erin can't do that.

Sunday morning, standing on the beach, I baptized Sam (RK's baby brother) with several gathered around. I was dressed in shorts and had my sunglasses on. We weren't in a man-made sanctuary, though we were in the greatest place of worship I could think of. And I intentionally didn't show up with a Book of Worship or even a shred of paper.

I asked all the important questions of Meg and Dave (Sam's parents): Do you profess your faith in Christ? Will you make sure that Sam is raised in a household where he will not only learn about Christ, but come to know him personally? Will you get him into church, giving him the best chance at life as possible?

I asked all of the family and friends who were there: Will you support Meg, Dave, and Sam in this commitment? Will you hold them accountable and do all you can to live a godly life so that Sam can learn from you?

I took a simple bowl of ocean water, dipped my hand in and touched it to the head of Sam Davis and baptized him in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It was a simple service, that probably lasted five minutes, but one that will have an impact on all of us and especially Sam for the rest of our lives. And I realized again how God likes to communicate. Through the simple element of water and very few words, God performed a significant act and conveyed his grace to all of us Sunday morning. I think that's God's barbarian nature showing: a little less talk, a lot more action.

So what does that mean for how we should communicate? I watch well-meaning Christians talk people's heads off and overexpose them to language they won't understand and then I watch others share a kind word, do a gracious deed, or simply show love to another and have significant impact on the lives of others.

"Instead of giving you God's Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn't think of lifting a finger to help. Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called 'Doctor' and 'Reverend.'" (Matthew 23:4-7, The Message)


skoots1mom said...

2Cor 1:3-4
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."

Wally said...

What a joy to read this post, and for different reasons than most. You story took me back in my past. I was born in Brunswick and raised on St. Simons Island (it's Simons, not Simon's). Also, my mother was raised outside of a small town named Dexter (near Dublin). I have driven past Pinetucky Church of God of Prophesy many times! It's probably no more than 10-20 miles from where my mother grew up. Let me know when you want to go visit. I'll go with you. Afterward, we can stop by a small white Baptist church called Antioch Baptist Church where I spend many Sundays with my grandparents.

Many thanks for the trip down memory lane, even if it's not what you were intending.

Your brother in Christ!

Sarah said...

Wow those south Georgia names sure do dredge up the memories.

And I remember seeing the Pinetucky Church of God of Prophecy. There also used to be a Church of Christ of the Latter Day Rain (no, it was not "reign" - I know the diff) outside Soperton.

Oh and miss St. Simon's Island and Epworth by the Sea so very much.

Anonymous said...

That's called Christianese, man. It's hard to understand in the first place, and hard to quit once you're fluent.